This video of Billy Joel fulfilling a Vanderbilt University student’s ultimate dream — an onstage duet of “New York State of Mind” with the singer/songwriter — went viral on the Internet this week.
During a question-and-answer session Joel hosted at the school, a student stood up and asked the music legend if he could make his whole life by performing his favorite song with him.
“My favorite song of yours is ‘New York State of Mind.’ I was very fortunate to play with Richie Cannata many times in New York City, and I was wondering if I could play it with you. I would accompany you, that is,” Michael Pollack said.
After short pause, Joel said, “OK” and Pollock’s life was made, as he took the stage and sat right down at the piano to play alongside the legendary musician, whose nickname is the “Piano Man.”
The two chatted about the arrangement for a bit, and then they performed “the heck out of the song,” as Yahoo! Music put it, with Joel singing the vocals.
Impressed, Joel said after their impromptu performance, “That’s Michael Pollack. Remember that name. Guy’s got chops!”
In a later interview with the Vanderbilt Hustler, Pollack recalled the moment he will never forget for the rest of his life:
“So I decided I was gonna go see Billy Joel right when we found out he was coming, and as a childhood idol of mine, right away I knew what I wanted to do when we went there.
“My roommate and I decided that we would try and find a way to get a question to be asked, and see if we could get on stage. And the day came, I put together a question, and I was raising my hand, and my friends to the right of me kept pointing to me, and finally after a few questions he picked on me and I hesitantly said how ‘New York State of Mind’ was my favorite song, and how I had performed it with his saxophonist Richie Cannata in the past and wondered if I could go up and play it with him.
“And then he thought for a little — he took a second — and then he just said ‘Okay.’ Which wasn’t quite convincing, but it was good enough. I walked up, we spoke about the arrangement for about 15 seconds — he just went through what he wanted me to play — and then from there, it was just … foggy. It’s hard to remember.
“I just started playing. I had practiced it a little bit thinking maybe I’d get the chance to go up … I kind of lost myself playing. Then afterward he said to me … he said that I was great, where are you from … and I said, ‘I’m a Long Islander just like you.’ He was like, ‘Cool.’ Then I walked off, and that was it … It was probably the greatest moment of my life, up to date.”
Michael Pollack says he hopes to be an accomplished songwriter one day, and he “recently signed with BMI and started working with them.”
Maybe his new friend Billy Joel will let him write a song or two for him.