Billy Joel & Garth Brooks’ Friendship, from ‘Shameless’ to Shea Stadium

Garth Brooks and Billy Joel

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They may seem like an unlikely duo, but Garth Brooks and Billy Joel have been friends and musical colleagues for over 20 years. In the A&E documentary about Brooks, subtitled “The Road I’m On,” Joel appears frequently, talking about their musical collaborations.

Their connection got started with Joel’s 1989 song “Shameless,” which was on the singer/songwriter’s album Storm Front. Brooks covered it on his third studio album, Ropin’ the Wind, and it shot to No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Joel revealed in a 1995 Q&A during a concert in Germany that when he wrote it, he was originally picturing an artist like Jimi Hendrix, not a country artist — but he loved what Brooks did with it.

“When I wrote the song ‘Shameless’ … I thought of Jimi Hendrix … and Garth Brooks took it and made it into a big country-western hit, which was fantastic to me,” said Joel at the time. “I’d never had a record played on country-western radio. They’re very strict, they will only play country-western artists. I’m very grateful to Garth Brooks for making something that I wrote available to hear to people who wouldn’t ordinarily have heard the music that I do.”

Joel also cited Brooks and Travis Tritt, another big country artist in the 1990s, for bringing “a lot of rock ‘n roll into country music.”

“They brought a certain amount of popular music in country-western music,” said Joel.

In the A&E documentary, Joel then recalls taking the stage with Brooks during Brooks’ 1997 concert in Central Park where the two played “Shameless,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up),” “New York State of Mind” and “You May Be Right.”

“It’s almost surreal, the sound that an audience that size makes,” Joel says in the documentary. “It’s something else altogether. It’s huge. It’s beyond huge. It’s huuuuge.

He adds, “I see Garth on stage and he’s in it, he’s in that moment. I don’t think he can get any more in that moment. A guy like Garth is, he’s gonna do whatever he can to just amp things up.”

And the admiration is mutual. When Joel introduced Brooks for Brooks’ induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011, Brooks said of Joel, “You talk about songwriters, there’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time. And he’s taken a day out of his life to do this, I feel very lucky.”

Brooks was also one of the performers tapped to honor Joel during his 2013 Kennedy Center Honors. Brooks performed Joel’s classics “Allentown” and “Goodnight Saigon.”

The two have played together many times over the years, including taking the stage for the final concert ever at Shea Stadium before it was closed in 2008 — and they welcomed special guest Bruce Springsteen as well. The trio brought the house down with, what else? “Shameless.”

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