Via Chicago just responded to the last post by declaring (on behalf of Tex Plush and himself) just how "white" Billy Joel's music is. Relative to the groups that get praised on here-- Andrew Bird (solo), Radiohead, New Pornographers, Bonnie "Prince" Billy-- that's just absolutely flat wrong.
Now look, I just finished my 2 and half year education at Berklee, and while I'm not dropping that as any sort of superiority thing, it was very illuminating because-- at least in ensembles-- I played predominantly black-written music there. And I many took classes that focused almost exclusively on the work of black people. And I learned how to write in a lot of "black" styles. I'm not claiming to know more about black music than any of you (certainly not more than Quinapalus), but I do know a heck of a lot more about it than I used to know.
And here's what I can tell you: Relative to most white musicians, Billy Joel ain't all that "white." Listen to Little Richard or Ray Charles play the piano. Now compare the piano styles of Billy Joel and, say, Stephen Drozd of Flaming Lips. Or Thom Yorke. Or Neil Young. Or the Sigur Ros guy. Or Panda Bear/Animal Collective. Or The National. Or Mikael Jorgenssen/Pat Sansone. So who sounds more like Ray Charles and Little Richard?
You can hear it in songs like Big Shot, Movin' Out, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young, etc. And then listen to "New York State of Mind," which is an homage to "Georgia On My Mind." Tell me how that song makes you feel white.
Look, I feel a little weird propping up Billy Joel, because I hardly listen to him anymore. But I do have those "Greatest Hits Vol. I & II" in my iTunes and I stand by the vast majority-- except for wussy stuff like "Just The Way You Are."
But using the "he's too white" argument against Billy Joel is just inaccurate. If anything, you could say too many of his best songs are simply derivative of black artists. (Musically at least. I'll concede that singing about Long Island all day is pretty white.) But the guy is simply too rhythmically attuned to get the "whitey" tag.