Billy Joel to Receive Gershwin Prize

Billy Joel, the regular guy from Long Island who insists he’s not a very good piano player, will be next recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the U.S. Library of Congress announced Tuesday.

He joins good company. The previous honorees are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Carole King and the songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It’s the second major Washington-based award for Joel in two years, this coming on the heels of his being named a Kennedy Center honoree last year.

Calling Joel a “storyteller of the highest order,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement that, “There is an intimacy to his songwriting that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music. When you listen to a Billy Joel song, you know about the people and the place and what happened there.”

The prize, to be formally awarded with a luncheon and musical performance in Washington in November, is given by the Library as a lifetime achievement award to a living musical artist.

Joel, 65, has been a force in pop music since the early 1970s. He had a dazzling string of hits over three decades, such as Piano Man, New York State of Mind, Movin’ Out, Uptown Girl, River of Dreams, and Just the Way You Are. He has sold more records than any solo act except for Garth Brooks and Elvis Presley. His Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is a massive sing-along favorite of concert crowds.

— The Washington Post

George Harrison Memorial Tree Dies

In the truth is stranger than fiction department, Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge told Pop & Hiss over the weekend that the pine tree planted in 2004 in memory of George Harrison will be replanted shortly because the original tree died as the result of an insect infestation.

Yes, the George Harrison Tree was killed by beetles.

Except for the loss of tree life, Harrison likely would have been amused at the irony. He once said his biggest break in life was getting into the Beatles; his second biggest was getting out.

The sapling went in, unobtrusively, with a small plaque at the base to commemorate the former Beatle, who died in 2001, because he spent his final days in Los Angeles and because he was an avid gardener for much of his adult life.

He famously bought a rundown mansion in England that once belonged to a British lord named Sir Frankie Crisp-the name showed up in the title of Harrison’s song Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) from his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass. Over the course of many years Harrison transformed the overgrown gardens into lush, beautiful grounds surrounding his home.

The memorial tree had grown to more than 10 feet tall as of 2013, but LaBonge said the tree beetle onslaught was too much for the tree. Trees in Griffith Park have occasionally been the victims of bark beetles and ladybug beetles, among other tree-unfriendly creatures.

— Los Angeles Times