Paying tribute to a Long Island music legend, New York-based a cappella group Six13 released the song and video “A Billy Joel Passover” on Monday.
“It’s 9 a.m. on a Seder day / The annual crowd has arrived,” begins the 4¼-minute medley of Joel’s “Piano Man,” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”, with several members of the eight-singer rotating band seated around a Passover table. “There is a zayde sitting next to me”, he continues, “Doing kiddush for all his relatives,” respectively using the Yiddish word for grandfather and the Hebrew word for a prayer offered over wine.
Clever and often hilarious lyrics include highlights featuring the Prophet Moses (“Moshe Rabbeinu came and walked through the door / He said, ‘Hey, let us get out of this land'”), familiar kosher marks and an upbeat phrase in “We Didn’t Start the Fire” staccato (“Gefen, Lieber’s and Kedem / Next year in Jerusalem”) and a melancholy return to the Seder table (“Four cups of red / Four cups of white / Tonight is different from every other night”).
“Me and a few other guys in the band are big fans of Billy Joel,” says vocalist and musical arranger Mike Boxer, 40, who writes most of the original songs for the nearly 20-year-old band devoted to religion and culture. Jewish culture. “I grew up literally learning to play the piano to Billy Joel’s stuff. He’s my musical hero, as he is to a lot of people.”
The tribute was “something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while,” he says. The group tries to spoof a trending holiday-relevant song each year: “Bohemian Chanukah,” released around the time of Freddie Mercury’s biopic, has garnered 2.9 million views so far on YouTube, and the group recently did “West Side Chanukah History.”
The Billy Joel pastiche was originally meant to be made right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the band – whose name refers to 613 mitzvot (Commandments) – “I thought it was probably not the right time to release a lighthearted parody video,” Boxer said.
Filmed, directed, edited and produced by David Khabinsky, the video includes outdoor locations such as Madison Square Garden, where Joel has a longtime monthly residency, and the steps of 142 Mercer St. in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, where Joel sits on the cover of his 1983 album ‘An Innocent Man’. Bands exit the Astor Place subway station in the East Village, inside which the cover for Joel’s 1976 album “Turnstiles” was shot.
Interiors include the SAR Academy high school in Riverdale, Bronx, where one of the band members — which includes Chaim Moskowitz and Craig Resmovits, as well as Dix Hill’s Jacob Spadaro, who doesn’t appear in the video — teaches.
While Six13 has performed at events such as the Tribute to Israel Parade in New York City on Fifth Avenue and, in December 2016, at the White House for President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Justice of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Boxer says meeting Joel remains “a dream of many of us. Sometimes Billy asks a cappella groups to join him on stage for ‘The Longest Time.’ we could do that.”