Billy Joel performs after accepting an award at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Centennial Awards in New York, November 17, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON)
He’s not known for making big statements with his wardrobe, but during his concert at Madison Square Garden last night, Billy Joel came on stage for an encore wearing a very noticeable yellow Star of David on his suit lapel.
Joel was reportedly protesting the growing visibility of neo-Nazi and antisemitic hate speech in the United States, and the equivocation on the topic by President Donald Trump. The star, of course, was a reference to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Joel, who grew up on New York’s Long Island, was born to two Jewish parents, and has described himself as culturally Jewish.
The singer took another shot at Trump during his show, by playing a slide show of ousted White House officials while singing Patty Smyth’s hit song “Goodbye to You,” alongside the singer herself. Former White House strategic adviser Steve Bannon, former press secretary Sean Spicer and former communications adviser Anthony Scaramucci all appeared on the screen.
Predictably, the move garnered mixed reviews on Twitter, with some calling him a “true hero,” and others wondering if he’d “lost his mind.” Hassidic writer and activist Elad Nehorai called it “epic and brave.”
Compared to many US stars, Joel has been relatively quiet about the current political climate. In a Rolling Stone interview in June, he said he tries to “stay out of politics... I try not to get up on a soapbox and tell people how to think.”
Nevertheless, he said, the election of Trump as president has him “flabbergasted,” and proves that “all kinds of weird shit can happen.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center told The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday, “Billy Joel’s father was in Dachau. If anyone has the right to use the Yellow Star as a gesture of solidarity to victims of the Nazis and in defiance of latter-day Nazis in Charlottesville and elsewhere around the world, it would be Billy Joel. Kol hakavod [‘Good going’], Billy!”