Billy Joel Admits That He Once Tried Heroin

By Shawn Dwyer 04/29/14

The singer-songwriter and former Mr. Christie Brinkley admitted his dalliance with dope to Howard Stern, which he said inspired the song "Scandinavian Skies."

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While it’s no secret that singer-songwriter Billy Joel has hit the bottle on more than one occasion, fans of the Piano Man might be surprised to learn that he once tried heroin.

The nugget of information came up when Joel was taking part in a Q&A moderated by shock jock Howard Stern and Robin Quivers as part of his 65th birthday celebration on Monday night at New York’s Cutting Room club. The celebration also included performances with Pink, Melissa Etheridge, and Tony Bennett.

"This was back in the late seventies, I think,” Joel said to Stern about dabbling with heroin. “We were in Amsterdam, and there was all this stuff going on, so I said 'Let me see what this is like.'"

"It got me so high I didn't know how to deal with it,” he continued. “You just get way out, just go to another place, and you're into the blues. All you want to hear is the blues. You start drooling, and you get sick."

Joel’s experience resulted in the song “Scandinavian Skies” from his 1982 album, The Nylon Curtain, which contained the line: “On the plane/We were mainly sound and lights/In the veins/We could play the blues all night.”

Of course, Joel has been no stranger to depression and substance abuse problems. In 1970, he attempted suicide by drinking a bottle of furniture polish, later saying in his biography Billy Joel: The Life and Times of an Angry Young Man that, “[it] looked tastier than bleach.”

In 2002, he spent two weeks in the Silver Hill Hospital, a substance abuse and psychiatric center in New Canaan, Conn., for alcohol abuse after avoiding serious injury in a car crash. Following two other near-miss crashes, Joel checked into the Betty Ford Clinic in 2005 for treatment of alcohol abuse after suffering “a...bout of severe gastrointestinal distress," according clinic spokesperson Claire Mercuri.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.