American Songwriter, which features a new Billy Joel interview as its May/June cover story, has focused on “Only The Good Die Young” as its Lyric of the Week. Here is an excerpt from their article:
Yes, dear readers, there was a Virginia. Billy Joel based his 1977 song “Only The Good Die Young” on an actual high school crush named Virginia Callahan. After Joel wrote the song about this Catholic girl’s reluctance to enjoy some lustful moments instead of praying all the time, he asked his drummer for his input. “I showed the song to Liberty (DeVitto), who’s Catholic,” Joel recalls in the liner notes to a 2008 rerelease of The Stranger. “He said, ‘Well, it’s true.’”
…“Only The Good Die Young” stands pretty tall amongst Billy Joel’s vast catalog of hits, one of his signature songs that never lose their luster. …It’s easy to take his hits for granted, because they seem so effortless. It’s only when you start to pick a song like this apart that the craft involved emerges.