Though he has been sometimes prickly and notably unsuccessful with his own relationships, recent Kennedy Center honoree Billy Joel has written and sung some beautiful and deeply meaningful songs. “Honesty” is among the “readers’ songs,” and one I considered for this blog — along with a number of other Joel songs that in one way or another capture parts of my marriage with Joanna: “All My Life,” “You May Be Right,”  “The Longest Time,” “C’etait Toi (You Were The One),” “You Look So Good to Me,” “You’re My Home,” “All About Soul,” and “She’s Got a Way.”

New York State of Mind” describes one of our favorite cities, I’ve used “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in my media history class, and “Piano Man” is one of my favorite story songs. “James” once felt as if it had been written for me (and yes, I now like my life a lot, though no, I’ve never written my masterpiece).

Still, for this blog, one choice had to be Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” (and no, not the Bruno Mars song with the same title, though it’s also a good song with a cool video).

The first line — “Don’t go changing, to try and please me” — describes one of the best things about our marriage. Other than the relatively minor compromises that come with any meaningful relationship, neither of us came into the relationship expecting the other to change. And yet, each of us has changed dramatically over the past 33 years, including in such important areas as faith, styles of living, careers, overcoming alcoholism, and going back to school.

Neither of us could have come close to imagining where we would now be, and yet we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have grown together, our changes complementing each other, each supporting whatever the other wanted to do. I think each of us can honestly say to the other, “I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times, I’ll take you just the way you are.” And after seeing Joanna’s experiment with a short perm early in our marriage, I definitely prefer that she not “try some new fashion.”

We also are fortunate that each of us happens to enjoy and appreciate “clever conversation.” And in the ways that matter most, each of us has remained “same old someone” that the other knew. It’s no wonder that I can still say to my wife, “I could not love you any better; I love you just the way you are.”

Lyrics here, with video below.

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