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The Sounds Of Silence: When Billy Joel stopped the world for Sinatra

On March 1, 1994, Frank Sinatra received a Grammy Legend Award, celebrating his long and illustrious professional career. The person in charge of presenting the award and giving it to Frank was Bono, the singer of the group U2, who gave a speech that generated division of opinion among Sinatra’s admirers.

When Frank appeared on stage, the star-studded audience at Radio City Music Hall rose to its feet and erupted into a long applause that deeply moved the singer, despite being well accustomed to applause throughout his career.

That emotion made him offer an emotional but scattered speech. After several minutes of ramblings, which on television cost a huge amount of money, someone decided that the most appropriate thing to do was to cut Sinatra, remove him from the stage and go to advertising. The orchestra present began to play, and Sinatra was forced to remain silent and leave. There are several versions about the authorship of what happened, which point to the production of the program or to Sinatra’s own team of collaborators, in an attempt to protect the artist’s image. But the public considered the gesture a serious lack of respect and the next day the scene became a topic of debate in the media and private conversations.

At the gala itself there was someone else who was outraged by what happened and did not miss the opportunity to denounce it to the audience. It was Billy Joel, the brilliant singer-songwriter who had been summoned to perform his fabulous song “River Of Dreams“.
In one of the natural pauses of the song, Joel decided to lengthen the silence and without getting up from the piano stool he looked at his watch and said “Ten seconds of valuable air time wasted. And now twenty minutes of valuable air time wasted.. dollars, dollars, dollars.” After thirty seconds he resumed the song. Everyone understood his message and gave him a warm ovation.

Billy Joel is in the news again because he presented a new song, “Turn The Lights Back On” on February 1. I really like Billy Joel and I will definitely keep track of him. For now I want to share with you this wonderful moment in which Joel raised his voice – or rather, silenced it – for The Voice.

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