“Vienna” by Billy Joel is on his 1977 Album “The Stranger.” This beautiful song portrays the concept of growing up too fast. Growing up my Mom and Dad would always tell me this song reminded them of me. I always liked the song and I remember countless car rides singing along to this song, I always knew all the lyrics and it always made me happy. However, I didn’t fully appreciate this song until my junior year of high school. The lyrics had finally hit me and I finally understood what my parents meant.
Where should I begin with this song?
Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” is his fifth album. The album mixes both lyrical success as well as musical success. Songs such as “Only the Good Die Young” hold upbeat instrumentals whereas “Vienna” is more of a slow ballad. The album has nine songs and was bound to be successful from the moment it was born.
The title “Vienna” actually relates to Billy’s father. When Billy Joel was young his parents got a divorce and his father moved back to his home in Vienna.
So what does “Vienna” mean? While visiting his father Billy saw an elderly woman cleaning the streets. After commenting on how the job was unjust for a woman Billy’s father commented something along the lines about how she is doing a service for everyone and that she got “dignity” because of this. It was then that Billy Joel realized how American Culture can “strip the elderly of their worth.” (http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=4179)
This realization is clear throughout the song with lyrics such as:
You got your passion, you got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
This song relates to not only myself but majority of budding young adults. The instruments and sounds of the song make it easy for listeners to hear and understand the lyrics. The lyrics in “Vienna” are deep and meaningful throughout the entirety of the song.
Slow down you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart tell me,
Why are you still so afraid? (mmmmm)
Above are the first few lines of the song, relevant for majority of our generation. Seriously, if we know everything why are we so afraid?
The song continues in this sort of pattern with a questioning and lecturing tone to it.
In a later part of the song the artist continues with:
But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (Oooh)
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?
In this moment of the song is where the title first begins. Without knowing the background of the title Vienna may seem confusing. Why did he pick Vienna? What does “Vienna waits for you” mean? However, that’s the beauty of the song. Even without knowing what Vienna refers to the listener can still appreciate the overall meaning of the song. Vienna can mean anything and what what it mens is really up to the listener.
This same verse happens to appear again at the very end of the song.
I could sit here and paste all of the lyrics for you to read, but rather, I really suggest you take a listen for yourself. “Vienna” is not only an enjoyable tone, but it is a rewarding song to listen to.