She's Got a Way

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For the Bryan Adams single of the same name, see She's Got a Way (Bryan Adams song).
"She's Got a Way"
Dutch cover to the 1972 single release
Single by Billy Joel
from the album Cold Spring Harbor
B-side "Everybody Loves You Now"
Released 1972
Format 7"
Recorded July 1971 at Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Genre Soft rock
Length 3:00
Label Family Productions U.S.
Philips U.K.
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Artie Ripp
Billy Joel singles chronology
"She's Got a Way"
"Piano Man"
"She's Got a Way (Live)"
Live single cover
Single by Billy Joel
from the album Songs in the Attic
B-side "The Ballad of Billy the Kid"
Released 1982
Format 7"
Recorded June 1980
Paradise Club, Boston, MA
Genre Soft rock
Length 3:10
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Phil Ramone
Billy Joel singles chronology
"Say Goodbye to Hollywood"
"She's Got a Way"

"She's Got a Way" is a song by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel, originally released on his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor (1971) and as a single from that album in some countries. It was also featured as a single from the 1981 live album Songs in the Attic, peaking at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1982.[1]

Lyrics and music[edit]

"She's Got a Way" is a love ballad.[2] The lyrics to "She's Got a Way" have the singer describing how various characteristics of a particular woman, such as her laugh, make him love her, even though he can't understand why.[3] To music critic Mark Bego it a song about a woman who has "mesmerized" him.[2] Joel biographer Fred Schruers describes the lyrics as a "plainspoken, never-quite-corny adoration of a loved one."[4] According to a friend of the couple, Bruce Gentile, the song was written about Joel's first wife Elizabeth.[5]

Schruers describes the song's melody as alternating between "surging" and "relenting."[4] The original studio version has minimal instrumentation.[3] The most prominent instruments are Joel's piano and some cymbal crashes.[3] Schruers describes Joel's piano playing as "stately."[4] On the 1983 reissue of Cold Spring Harbor, "She's Got a Way" also incorporated strings, which may have been inspired by a live performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City at which strings were included in the instrumentation.[3] Schruers attributes some of the poignance of the song to the way Joel sings the final word of the final phrase "I don't know what it is/But there doesn't have to be a reason anyway."[4] Schruers describes the last word "anyway" as hanging in the air, "trailing off" and "disrupting the tempo" and thus "seemingly giving in to the emotion" of love.[4]

In a 1981 interview, Joel expressed mixed feelings about the song: "I thought it was cornball for years. I had trouble singing it at first. Then I got into it and decided everybody has a corny side, I suppose".[6]

Joel originally included "She's Got a Way" on a five song demo tape that also included other songs that would appear on Cold Spring Harbor such as "Everybody Loves You Now" and "Tomorrow Is Today" which Joel made in an unsuccessful attempt to secure his first solo recording contract with Paramount Records.[5]

Live version[edit]

The version released on Songs in the Attic was recorded at a live performance in Boston in 1980. Joel performs the song with only his piano accompanying him.[3] Ken Bielen describes the performance as being influenced by Paul McCartney's style and says that the small venue with its "attentive audience" provides an "intense intimacy."[3] Schruers describes this version as being "a technically better performance much more in a chest register" but does not consider it as poignant as the original version.[4] Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls this version "richer and warmer" than the studio version.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the studio version as being "lovely" and rated it as one of Joel's "finest songs."[8] Bego described it as a "beautiful love ballad" and one of Joel's "most serious and adult compositions."[2] Joel biographer Hank Bordowitz called it a "remarkable composition that, while not great, at least indicate[d] a rising talent."[5] Billboard Magazine's Roy Waddell similarly described it as a "chestnut" that didn't get its "proper due" until the live version was released on Songs in the Attic.[9] Joel biographer Fred Schruers described as the one "gem" from Cold Spring Harbor.[4] According to Rolling Stone Album Guide critic Paul Evans, "She's Got a Way" "set the pattern for the ballads Joel would soon turn out effortlessly."[10]

Chart positions[edit]

The 1981 recording's chart positions:

Chart Peak
Canadian Singles Chart[11] 46
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[5] 23
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 4

Cover versions[edit]

Michael Sweet covered this song on 2007's Touched.[12] Phil Keaggy covered the song on 2007's Acoustic Café, accompanied only by acoustic guitar.[3] Ken Bielen described this version as being "sweet, gentle and simple."[3] Don Henley sang "She's Got a Way" as a tribute to Joel when Joel was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 2013.[4]

Margie Joseph recorded a femme version of the song, titled "He's Got a Way," in 1974.[3] Her version uses electric piano as the primary instrument, and adds a Hammond B-3 organ in the third verse to add a touch of gospel music influence.[3] She also adds a gospel choir for background vocals which, in Bielen's opinion gives the impression that her interpretation may be directed towards God rather than a human lover.[3] Bernadette Peters covered "He's Got a Way" on her 1996 album I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, accompanied only on piano.[3] Bielen described this version as being "technically perfect albeit emotion-filled."[3] Erlewine says that she is "well-suited" to its "pseudo-show tune stylings."[13]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  2. ^ a b c Bego, Mark (2007). Billy Joel: The Biography. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 58. ISBN 9781560259893. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bielen, Ken (2011). The Words and Music of Billy Joel. ABC-CLIO. pp. 21, 124, 129, 131. ISBN 9780313380167. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Schruers, Fred (2014). Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography. Crown Archetype. pp. 80–81, 348. ISBN 9780804140201. 
  5. ^ a b c d Bordowitz, Hank (2006). Billy Joel: The Life & Times of an Angry Young Man. Billboard Books. pp. 36, 41, 51, 238. ISBN 9780823082483. 
  6. ^ Campbell, Mary; Associated Press (1981). "Billy Joel Records Early Songs". Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Songs in the Attic". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Cold Spring Harbor". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 
  9. ^ Waddell, Roy (May 9, 2009). "The Legend of Billy the Kid". Billboard Magazine. p. 32. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 
  10. ^ Evans, Paul (2004). Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Fireside. p. 434. ISBN 0743201698. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Touched". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 
  13. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight". Allmusic. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 

External links[edit]