Only the Good Die Young

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This article is about the Billy Joel song. For the song by Iron Maiden, see Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. For the song by Queen, see No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young). For the song by Def Leppard, see Songs from the Sparkle Lounge.
"Only the Good Die Young"
Single by Billy Joel
from the album The Stranger
B-side "Get It Right the First Time"
Released 1977
Format 7"
Recorded 1977
Genre Rock
Length 3:55
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Phil Ramone
Billy Joel singles chronology
"Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)"
(1977)
"Only the Good Die Young"
(1977)
"She's Always a Woman"
(1977)

"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[1]

Song information[edit]

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.[2] 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,[3] and pressured radio stations to remove it from their play lists.[2] "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.[4]

Demo version[edit]

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.[5]

Track listing[edit]

7" single (1977)[edit]

  1. "Only the Good Die Young" – (3:54)
  2. "Get It Right the First Time" – (3:32)

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1977) Peak
position
Canadian Singles Chart[6] 18
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[2] 24

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sagert, Kelly Boyer (2007). The 1970s. New York: Greenwood Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-313-33919-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Dean, Maury (2003). Rock N' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 242. ISBN 0-87586-207-1. 
  3. ^ The Story Behind Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”. PerformerSongwriter.com archive. Retrieved April 24, 2013
  4. ^ Interview with Oprah Winfrey, The Oprah Winfrey Show, 2008
  5. ^ Video on YouTube: Billy Joel tells how "Only The Good Die Young" came to sound the way it does crediting Liberty Devitto
  6. ^ http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?brws_s=1&file_num=nlc008388.4602a&type=1&interval=24&PHPSESSID=o44utr2skf3ci9l36vl9mglvm5

External links[edit]