When Billy Joel’s song, “Only the Good Die Young” came out in the 1970’s, it wasn’t really that popular at first. It was only after a local radio station and several Catholic dioceses took note of the lyrics to the song and banned people from listening to it that the song skyrocketed up the charts. Billy Joel actually contacted the diocese and thanked them for banning the song and requested they ban his next album. He figured people are going to do whatever you tell them they can’t do.
Billy Joel claimed that the song wasn’t anti-Catholic. He said it was “pro-lust”. That is for sure, as you can tell with lyrics like:
“You didn’t count on me when you were counting on your rosary”
“That stain glass curtain your hiding behind never lets in the sun”
“They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait, some say it’s better but I say it ain’t. I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun.”
This song was about Billy Joel’s attempt to get a Catholic School girl to sleep with him, and the message is clear. The temporary pleasures of this world (in this example lust) are “better” than the eternal joy of heaven.
There is no denying that Billy Joel is one of the most talented musicians in history. I really like the sound of his music. It is attractive, catchy, and entertaining. Billy Joel has a gift, and in this particular song he chose to use that gift to promote lust. I can’t help but wonder if Billy Joel’s philosophy has panned out for him and those that live by this claim. There is no doubt that Billy Joel has access to more honor, pleasure, and wealth than most people on this planet. However, you may or may not know that Billy Joel once attempted suicide, he has had many struggles with alcoholism, he’s been divorced multiple times, and his daughter recently attempted suicide. I have no idea what Billy Joel deals with and have no intention of judging his life, but does that sound like true happiness?
Sadly, most lyrics in today’s culture make the same claim…. “pleasure and happiness are the same thing”. Everyone wants to be happy, so the marketing minds of the world attempt to sell us happiness. You can:
• go to McDonald’s and get a “happy meal”
• grab a coke and “open happiness”
• and “live for now” as Pepsi encourages you to do
The only problem is, happiness and pleasure are not the same thing. Pleasure is fleeting, that is why they want you to “live for now”. They don’t have happiness to sell, they have pleasure. Pleasure is a good thing in the proper context, but living for pleasure doesn’t make us happy and free. It makes us depressed slaves to thousands of addictions.
Here is a challenge for you. Don’t just live for now. Live for eternity! The saints were not “crying” as Billy Joel claims. They were the happiest and most joy-filled people that ever walked the planet, because regardless of their situation or circumstance, they knew their destiny, and nothing and nobody could take that from them. Billy Joel is perhaps right about one thing. People will often do what you tell them they can’t do. You want to do something the whole world says you can’t do? Be saints!! Holiness is the only rebellion left in the world. Pretty much everything else is considered normal. Just like Billy Joel, you also have a gift. I challenge you to let the song of your life speak Truth AND Love. Speak the truth in an attractive way. There is nothing more attractive and nothing more true than holiness.
The culture says self-indulge. The Church says self-discipline. The culture says go out and get what you want. The Church says give everything you have. The culture says, “if it feels good do it.” The Church says “pick up your cross and follow Christ.” The culture says love is a feeling. The Church says love is a choice. I guess the question is, who do you trust to lead you to true happiness…. the culture or the Church?
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”