Billy Joel’s Motorcycle Accident

Since he was a teenager, Billy Joel has been a motorcycle fanatic. Fame and fortune allowed him to slowly build a collection of classic and newfangled bikes and he has even paid tribute to his hobby in music (“Motorcycle Song,” “You May Be Right”).“A motorcycle is an amusement-park ride. It’s dangerous,” he told Playboy in the spring of 1982. “Everybody out on the road is out to get you. A truck goes by and it can blow you right off the road. Cars are constantly pulling out in front of you like you’re not a real vehicle. … You’re constantly playing terror chess: ‘What am I going to do if this guy does that?’ It clears all the cobwebs out of your head. When you get off the bike, it’s, ‘Whew, I made it.’”But, not long after Joel gave that interview, there was a time where Joel didn’t make it. On April 15, 1982, the singer-pianist was riding his 1978 Harley-Davidson in Huntington, Long Island. When he came to the intersection of New York Avenue and West Ninth Street, he had a green light, but a car crossing from the right accidentally ran a red.“She barreled through the intersection,” Joel told Café Racer in 2011. “I hit the brakes as hard as I could, but it was too close. So I ran into the side of her car. … This [left] thumb got crushed and this [right] wrist got pulled out of the socket. And I flipped over the car and landed on my back.”Joel, who was wearing a helmet and riding leathers, avoided further injury. He was helicoptered to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan, where Dr. David L. Andrews performed a two-hour surgery on the pianist’s busted wrist and thumb. The orthopedic surgeon allayed fears that the “Piano Man” would never play again.“He’ll think he’ll be as good as new,” Andrews said after the surgery. “I think he’ll be better.”Joel remained in the hospital for a month after the accident, gradually practicing playing piano as part of his rehabilitation. Because of the accident, the release of the rocker’s new album, The Nylon Curtain, was delayed, but only by a few months – surfacing in September. As he approached the tour to promote The Nylon Curtain, he was unsure of how his hands would survive the road.“I feel OK. I won’t really know until I go out on the road and bang the piano how far I’ve really come with recovery,” he told Martha Quinn on MTV. “I practice, but there’s no substitute for going on a stage. You can bang as hard as you want at your house… but when you go out on stage and there’s 20,000 people going [makes roaring crowd noise], that’s when you really pound.”Lucky for Joel and his fans, his hands held up and he’s continued to pound the piano in theaters, arenas and stadiums in the decades since, although he doesn’t have a bone in the tip of his left thumb, only flesh and cartilage. The accident didn’t deter the singer from biking, who continues to ride and collect motorcycles. In 2010, he opened his own shop 20th Century Cycles, and built a bike for Bruce Springsteen. But should Joel suffer another crash, he has a back-up plan.“You play with your elbows if you have to,” Joel said. “It’s rock ’n’ roll.”

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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