"Just the Way You Are" is a song by Billy Joel and the third track from his 1977 album The Stranger. It was Joel's first US Top 10 (reaching #3) and UK Top 20 single, as well as Joel's first gold single in the US.
"Just the Way You Are", which won the 1979 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, turned Joel's chart career, which had largely stalled out by early 1975, into long-lasting success. The song also coincidentally tied another of his #3 hits, his last US Top 10 single, "The River of Dreams", for most weeks on the Hot 100 of any of his singles, at 27.
In an interview on the Howard Stern Radio Show on November 16, 2010, Joel revealed that the inspiration for writing this tune (more specifically the name of the song and how it sounds in the chorus) was directly taken from the last line in the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song "Rag Doll;" which incidentally was also a larger inspiration for Joel's later song, "Uptown Girl". The song, which Joel had written for his first wife (and also his business manager at the time) Elizabeth Weber, was not liked by either Joel or his band, and Joel had originally decided against making the track a part of the album. But Joel has stated that, at the request of both Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow (both were recording in other studios in the same building at the time), Joel agreed to put the song on the final mix. However, the album's producer, Phil Ramone, later contradicted Joel's claim, stating in an interview that they could not afford to exclude the song because Joel did not have that much material to choose from for the album.
After Joel and Weber split in 1982, Joel rarely performed the song live after 1986 until the 2000s, and Joel has publicly stated that he disliked playing the song live in the wake of his divorce from his first wife. He noted that during performances of the song around the time of his first divorce, his drummer Liberty DeVitto would jokingly parody the lyrics in the chorus as "She got the house. She got the car."
When "Just the Way You Are" was released as a single, it was shortened by over a minute. The differences are the removal of the second verse and an earlier fade. A live performance of the song was also used as a music video. On February 18, 1978, the song peaked at #3, and Joel performed a shorter version of the song as the musical guest that day on Saturday Night Live (along with "Only the Good Die Young"). The single version was included in the first release of Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II, but the full album version was restored for the remastered release of that compilation.
The saxophone solo was played by Phil Woods, a well-known jazz performer and Grammy award winner. Woods was criticized by some purists in the jazz community for playing on a rock session, but in fact he had already played previously on such sessions both for Steely Dan and for Paul Simon. The performance here on a hit record undoubtedly exposed him to a wider audience and introduced his music to rock fans.