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Two of pop music’s most legendary piano men — Elton John and Billy Joel — reconciled Thursday night at the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony in New York City, putting an end to whatever lingering awkwardness was between them in the years after John gave a blunt interview calling his former touring partner lazy and an alcoholic.
“I didn’t see you tonight, Mr. Joel, but I want to see you,” said John at the 44th annual event, where he and longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin received the Johnny Mercer Award, the night’s top honor.
Joel, on hand to introduce a performance from Songwriters Hall inductees Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, later joked onstage: “Is Elton still here, by the way? Anyway, we’re OK. Call me. It’s the same phone number.”
Two years ago, John — not one to shy away from brutal honesty — told Rolling Stone that he worried Joel wasn’t taking his sobriety efforts seriously enough.
“He’s going to hate me for this, but every time he goes to rehab, they’ve been light,” said John. “When I went to rehab, I had to clean the floors. He goes to rehab where they have TVs. I love you, Billy, and this is tough love.”
The “Rocket Man” icon also opined: “At the end of the day, he’s coasting. I always say, ‘Billy, can’t you write another song?’ It’s either fear or laziness. It upsets me.”
Joel responded in a candid Q&A with The New York Times Magazine published in May, saying: “That’s his opinion. I don’t [write new songs] because I don’t wanna. He tends to shoot off his mouth — he shoots from the hip. I think his heart is in the right place. Maybe he’s trying to motivate me, to get me mad or something. He’s kind of like a mom.”
Besides Foreigner, others inducted into the 2013 Hall of Fame were Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Holly Knight, JD Souther and Tony Hatch.
“I don’t mean this lightly, but when you get an Ivor Novello Award or an American songwriter’s award, it means so much more than a Grammy because this is where the whole process starts,” said John while accepting the John Mercer Award, the Associated Press reported.
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