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New Billy Joel Q&A – Can You Tell Me What Made You Write The Song ‘Summer, Highland Falls?’

Billy discusses the creative use of “sadness and euphoria,” constant currents in his life and work, explored here with this 7th question from our Nuremberg series. He was asked to play a song, and folded two questions into one, with a solo performance of “Summer, Highland Falls,” followed by an explanation of the song’s creative context.

“Summer, Highland Falls” is the second song on the Turnstiles album, his third album on Columbia Records, which was written in Highland Falls, New York, during the summer of 1975. Hence the title, which reads like an underlined statement in a diarist notebook, a comma separating that time and place–summer, Highland Falls.

The historic Village of Highland Falls lies 50 miles north of New York City, and became Billy’s way station in his move back to New York from LA, where he had recorded his Piano Man and Street Life Serenade albums. Crisscrossing the Hudson River during his intrepid Street Life Tour, Billy was inspired by the sheer beauty of upstate New York, and found a small house to rent there at the end of the tour. He moved to New York City in the winter of ’76 and began recording the material that would become the Turnstiles album. Enjoy this 7th installment in our Billy Joel “Questions & Answers” lecture series and the lyrics to “Summer, Highland Falls.”

Summer, Highland Falls

They say that these are not the best of times
But they’re the only times I’ve ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own

Now, I have seen that sad surrender in my lover’s eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It’s either sadness or euphoria

So we’ll argue and we’ll compromise
And realize that nothing’s ever changed
For all our mutual experience,
Our separate conclusions are the same

Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
Our reason coexists with our insanity
And though we choose between reality and madness
It’s either sadness or euphoria

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don’t fulfill each others fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives,
With our respective similarities
It’s either sadness of euphoria

Map of Highland Falls