Let’s just go ahead and get to it: this song is awesome. I mean, come on, it’s freaking Billy Joel. Either you listened to him forever because he was there and rocked it, or your parents listened and you got all excited and tried to learn the words for the grocery list of the twentieth century in ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ or you didn’t listen to him in which case Sad Emoji for you.
This particular song, ‘The Downeaster Alexa,’ is the narrative of a fisherman in Long Island Sound, struggling to steer his faithful Alexa through storms and economic decline, having lost his house, now straining to keep possession of his boat, searching for the stripers upon which his life depends in the polluted waters of factory overfishing. This was actually a real crisis, too. He’s lost amidst tempests and failed hopes. You kind of get worried about the guy. But these lyrics though: “tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis,” “there ain’t no island left for islanders like me.” Plus it’s just enough in the minor key to be sad but still isn’t a party-ruiner. And those trilling sounds that come through on the bridge, and then the violin, and the whole harmonizing calls of despair. Everything about this song is fabulous.
Also, apparently Billy was fiercely supportive of the actual fishermen, the Baymen who experienced this crisis, and was pals with a fellow whose boat was called Alexa Ray. And now that’s the name of Billy’s daughter. Trivia!
Featured image by 19th century painter Winslow Homer, if you were curious. Weirdly, a Google image search for this revealed a yoga mat with this picture printed upon it, I kid you not.