Only the Good Die Young
|"Only the Good Die Young"|
|Single by Billy Joel|
|from the album The Stranger|
|B-side||"Get It Right the First Time"|
|Billy Joel singles chronology|
"Only the Good Die Young" is a song from Billy Joel's 1977 pop rock album, The Stranger. The song was controversial for its time, with the lyrics written from the perspective of a young man determined to deflower a Catholic girl who is a virgin.
The song was inspired by a high school crush of Billy Joel's, Virginia Callahan. The boy/narrator believes that the girl is refusing him because she comes from a religious Catholic family and that she believes sex before marriage is sinful. He sings,
You Catholic girls start much too late,
but sooner or later it comes down to fate.
I might as well be the one.
The song became a prototypic example of the Streisand effect when religious groups considered it anti-Catholic, and pressured radio stations to remove it from their play lists. "When I wrote 'Only the Good Die Young', the point of the song wasn't so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust," Joel told Performing Songwriter magazine. "The minute they banned it, the album started shooting up the charts." In a 2008 interview, Joel also pointed out one part of the lyrics that virtually all the critics missed – the man in the song failed to get anywhere with the girl, and she kept her chastity.
A demo, included in the box set My Lives, features a slower, reggae version of the song. Joel reprised the song's motif in this version with a church organ. Joel has stated publicly that he changed the reggae beat to a shuffle beat at the request of his longtime drummer, Liberty DeVitto, who hated reggae music.
7" single (1977)
- "Only the Good Die Young" – (3:54)
- "Get It Right the First Time" – (3:32)
|Canadian Singles Chart||18|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||24|
- Sagert, Kelly Boyer (2007). The 1970s. New York: Greenwood Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-313-33919-8.
- Dean, Maury (2003). Rock N' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 242. ISBN 0-87586-207-1.
- The Story Behind Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young". PerformerSongwriter.com archive. Retrieved April 24, 2013
- Interview with Oprah Winfrey, The Oprah Winfrey Show, 2008
- Video on YouTube: Billy Joel tells how "Only The Good Die Young" came to sound the way it does crediting Liberty Devitto