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An analysis of a persuasive song "Only the Good Die Young"

One of the most arrogant and persuasive songs that I've ever heard is
Billy Joel's song called "Only the Good Die Young." It is sung by a young man
who is trying to persuade a young woman to lose her virginity with him.
The author of the song is Billy Joel, who was born on May 9, 1949 in the
Bronx. Hel has gone through adolescence to adulthood and, based on his
own experience, he has written many other songs that talk about life
experiences. For example, Moving Out is about a young man who isn't
ready to marry and tells his mother that "she ought to know by now" that
some young men just want to have fun and that instead of moving up in
status, he prefered to move out. Another song, Piano Man. describes the
levels of depression that adults often go through, after divorce or loss of jobs
or bad breakups. Billy Joel is an expert in these topics because he has
survived many of them and written about them as a way perhaps of
recovering from the disappointments or perhaps he found strength in his
weaknesses and decided to write about them.. Poor Billy! (Are you okay
now? I hope he has overcome his experiences).
This song was published in 1977 as part of an album called "The
Stranger" that Joel created. The publisher was Sony Music, so it was widely
distributed and many people have been exposed to these lyrics. The current
number of hits on YouTube for this songs official video is over 94,000, but

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unofficial postings of the song have a total of over four million hits (three
amateur channels had 3.4 million, 798,000 and 220,000 hits respectively).

The Main Idea

He must have been a young boy full of sex hormones, who wanted
desperately to sleep with any girl that he connected eyes with. Come on,
give me a sign, lets go. He made it sound like he was running out of time.
When he was older, he decided to write about it. He was able to relate to
how he felt when he was a teenager. To this day, there are lots of young
boys who can relate with this topic. He must have had a crush on a Catholic
girl (or girls), because he already decided that they wouldn't have sex with
him because of their religious beliefs.

In the song he wrote, "Don't let me

wait," so he makes it sound like it is an urgent matter, and like he's

Billy Joel, based on his lyrics, becomes a little religious himself. He
believed that fate is involved in his fantasy. "I might as well be the one"
shows that, for some reason, he believes that he should be the one. In the
next line he talked about a statue. The Catholics believe that they need to
pray to statues. In a sense, they try to keep you away from the ways of the
sinful world, and he realizes that he's part of that sinful world. So he feels
that by keeping her sheltered, the Church is locking her away in his mind.

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He talks about "the price you pay." He's talking about the price that
she has to pay by being locked away. She's hiding behind "the stained glass
curtain," which the sun doesn't shine through. To me, since the sun doesn't
shine through, you can't feel the heat of the sun or the effect that the sun
has to the skin. That's just the beginning of the things she is unable to feel.
The author perhaps suggests that she's unable to feel his heat and his
The title of the song "only the good die young," is confusing if you
dont know about Catholic guilt. We are not talking about death. We are
talking about him wanting to sleep with the Catholic girl and he's asking her
not to make him wait. Is he using a metaphor because he feels hopeless, the
fact that he cant be with her, so hes dead to her or shes dead to him?
Does he feel that based on the religious belief, she will live longer because
she sins (because only good people die young)? I did further research on
this title to understand why he named the song "only the good die young."
In an interview, Joel mentioned that the album was going nowhere until this
song was issued as a single -- and got banned by some religious universities.
I was called the anti-Catholic guy. (Hutchinson).
According to, Virginia was not just a made-up name for
the song. She was a young woman in his life whom he had a crush on when
he started playing in a band. Billy Joel said in an interview, "I originally
started bands just to meet girls." To his surprise, he had no clue that he

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could make a living playing songs, but he was really good at it. He turned
out to be famous and he turned into an American icon. You can say his
name and many people know whom you are talking about.
His first gig was actually in a church. This is where he began to have a
crush on Virginia. Perhaps she was like a forbidden fruit, an enticing angel
in a church, so he wanted her even more. This song was possibly created by
an unexpected situation. In the song, the singer is a second character. He
describes himself as part of "a dangerous crowd, not pretty and not proud"
and even laughing "a little too loud." Hes clearly not someone to bring
home to a Catholic familys house. But yet, he claims that he has never hurt
anyone, and it makes you think that he has a good heart. It doesn't make
him a bad person just because he's running with a bad crowd.
He goes on to ask Virginia to give a sign, more than just looking at him.
He wants a signal, he wants any reaction from this girl to the point that he
talks about "throw her a line," which can have many different meanings.
Again he mentions the glass curtain that in his mind he created this
assumption that she is hiding behind.

He goes on to mention her dress

that she wears in her confirmation. It is not clear if he is there for the
ceremony or if it is in his imagination. He must know something about
Catholics and confirmation. We can assume that the singer of the song is
not Catholic because he has his own very strong beliefs that she should not
wait to have premarital sex. He also assumed that she got a brand new soul.

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He also sings that she has a "cross of gold," so she looks very Catholiclike. In part of his persuasive argument he talks about the price she paid.
"They" (the Catholic Church) didn't give her enough information about how
to deal with feelings toward a male. Instead, they told her to count her
rosary (which is a symbol of staying focused on God). There is a strong
belief that there is a Heaven for "those who wait." Wait for what? Wait for
marriage before having sex? What happens to those who don't wait? Are
they automatically going to Hell because of their lack of patience?
The Audience
The audience of the song is Billy Joel along with all the 16-year-old
boys who harass young women with sexual demands. Is that perhaps 2
billion young boys with the same frame of mind? I'm afraid it's more than 2
billion because many young men, when they grow up, don't change. For
example, I was recently told by three adult men that I should marry them.
So perhaps this song has a broader audience

Other Peoples Opinions about the song

In the Rolling Stone review of the album, the reviewer observed that
"Joel has achieved a fluid sound. We don't expect subtlety or understatement
from him and his lyrics can be smart-assed as ever" (Ira Meyer). It's clear
that it's a smart-assed song. The average boy knows exactly what he wants.
I can only imagine what Billy Joel was like when he was a teenager. He must

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have been a walking hormone! I can picture him chasing women because he
has mentioned in an interview how his goal in making a band was to meet
girls, so it shows where his mind was.
To conclude the analysis, lets look at the line where Joel writes,
Sinners are much more fun. Here we go again! A young boy has high
expectations. Joel then talks about what Virginias mother says about him
The mother comments that he cant give her a good reputation, based on
what the mom has observed. He goes on to question whether the mom has
ever prayed for him. That shows you that perhaps he is more religious than
the mother because he knows that the sinner needs prayer and all the
mother is doing is judging instead of praying.
This song got me started about how boys really are. The song is cute
and humorous, but in a realistic way it has a lot of truth to it. It makes you
think how a boy's brain thinks -- or doesn't think. It shows the boy's reaction
to a certain frustrating situation.
Hutchinson, Lydia. Billy Joels Only The Good Die Young. May 9, 2012. Retrieved on March 5, 2015.
Meyer, Ira (1977) "The Stranger" (review.) Rolling Stone. December 15,
1977. "Billy Joel, Only the Good Die Young."


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Vevo Youtube Channel for Billy Joel, Only the Good Die Young. Retrieved on
March 8, 2015 from the Web: