|Billy Joel Biography||
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William Martin "Billy" Joel (born May 9, 1949, in Bronx, New York) is an United States singer-songwriter, pianist, and composer.
Joel recorded many popular hit songs and albums from 1973 in music (beginning with the single "Piano Man (song)") to his retirement from recording pop music in 1993 in music. He is one of the very few rock (music) or even pop (music) artists to have Top 10 hits in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. A six-time Grammy Award winner, he has sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/3675272.stm and is the sixth best selling artist in the United States, according to the RIAA. Joel's induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame (Class of 1992), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 1999), and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (Class of 2006) has further solidified his status as one of America's leading music icons. He has continued to tour occasionally (sometimes with Elton John) in addition to writing and recording European classical music.
Joel first lived in the South Bronx, in New York City, but his family soon moved to Hicksville, Long Island. Often he himself, along with many in the media have confused this with him living in neighboring Levittown, NY (formed 1947). In truth, Joel lived on Meeting Lane in Hicksville, a town that has existed since 1648, near the Levittown border, in a section of town where Post-WW2, there were houses developed by Abe Levitt, known as Levitt Houses, thus forming nearby Levittown. http://www.newsday.com/community/guide/lihistory/ny-hometown_joe,0,6402455.story?coll=ny-lihistory-navigationhttp://www.antonnews.com/hicksvilleillustratednews/1999/08/13/news. His father, Howard (né: Helmut) Joel, was a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Germany, whose father Karl Amson Joel owned the fourth largest mail order company in Germany before being dispossessed by the Nazis. His mother, Rosalind Nyman, was born in England, to an agnostic Jewish family. His parents later divorced, and his father moved back to Eastern Europe. His half-brother charles Alexander Joel (musician) is an acclaimed classical pianist and conductor in Europe, now living in New York. http://www.thevillager.com/villager_12/billyjoel.html From an early age Joel had an intense interest in music; especially European classical music. He began piano lessons at an early age, and his interest in music instead of sports was the source for much teasing and bullying in his early years. As a teenager, Joel took up boxing so that he would be able to defend himself. He boxed successfully on the amateur Golden Gloves circuit for a short time, but abandoned the sport shortly after having his nose broken in a boxing match. Joel attended Hicksville High School, and was to have graduated in 1967. However, he was one English credit short of the graduation requirement; he overslept on the day of an important exam due to his late-night musician's lifestyle. Faced with a summer in school to complete this requirement, he decided not to continue. He left high school without a diploma to begin a career in music. In 1992, the English credit requirement was waived by the Hicksville School Board and he received his diploma at Hicksville High's graduation ceremony 25 years after he left the school.
At the age of 14 Joel joined his first band, The Echoes (which later became The Lost Souls). According to producer Shadow Morton, Joel was also the pianist on the Shangri-Las hit "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" http://www.limusichalloffame.org/lirock/shadow04.html. In 1966, he joined The Hassles, a Long Island band that had some local success ("Every Step I Take," "You Got Me Hummin'"). The Hassles released two albums The Hassles (1967) and Hour of the Wolf (1968) on the United Artists record label. Following The Hassles' demise in 1969, he formed the pop rock duo Attila with Hassles drummer Jon Small. Attila released their eponymous debut album in July 1970 and disbanded the following October. Upon losing his record contract with Attila, Joel suffered severe clinical depression, and was admitted into Meadowbrook Hospital after ingesting furniture polish in a half-hearted suicide attempt. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Billy-Joel-Tried-To-Suicide-With-Furniture-Polish-10309.shtml The note he left eventually became the lyrics to his song "Tomorrow Is Today." Upon release from Meadowbrook Hospital in early 1971, he began to re-explore his place in the music business, including the participation in a television commercial with Chubby Checker and the contribution of rock criticism to a music magazine called Changes.
Early albums 1970–1976
Cold Spring Harbor (1971)
Joel signed his first solo record contract with Artie Ripp of Family Productions, and subsequently recorded his first solo album. Cold Spring Harbor (album) (a reference to the Cold Spring Harbor, New York of the same name), was released in 1971. However, the album was mastered at the wrong speed, and the album was initially released with this error, resulting in Joel sounding a half step too high (Joel later commented that he sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks). The onerous terms of the Family Productions contract also guaranteed him very little money from the sales of his albums. Joel left for Los Angeles, California with Elizabeth Weber, and married her in Los Angeles in May, 1971. For six months of the following year, he played in the Executive Lounge piano bar under the name Bill Martin. This experience is what gave him the material for "Piano Man." In addition, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania radio station, WMMR-FM, started playing a tape of a new song, "Captain Jack," which was taken from a live concert broadcast which became an underground hit on the East Coast.http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Billy-Joel-Biography/B5E6E558FEF8C8D1482568700013A7BC Hits such as "She's Got a Way" and "Everybody Loves You Now" were originally released on this album, though they did not gain much attention until released as live performances in 1981 on Songs in the Attic. Since then they have become regular concert numbers. Cold Spring Harbor got a second chance on the charts in 1983, when Columbia reissued the album after slowing it down to the correct speed. The album reached # 158 in the US and # 95 in the UK nearly a year later.
Piano Man (1973)
His experiences in Los Angeles connected him with an executive from Columbia Records named Herb Gordon, who bought out his contract with Ripp, with the condition that the "Family Productions" logo be displayed alongside the Columbia logo for the next five albums. Also in the contract was the agreement that Family Productions would receive a 25 cent royalty for every album Joel sold, which would come back to haunt him when he hit it big. His brief tenure in Los Angeles also inspired his signature song "Piano Man." The album Piano Man (album) was released in late 1973 and was certified Gold. To this day it has sold over four million copies. However, due to the large sums of money involved in the legal tangles of the contract buyout, Joel netted less than $7,000 in profit from his certified Gold record. Although this album is best known for its title track, several other future gems include "Captain Jack," "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," and "You're My Home" (the b-side of the "Piano Man" single, which would later be covered by Helen Reddy), all of which would become staples of Joel's live shows.
Streetlife Serenade (1974)
Joel remained in Los Angeles to write Streetlife Serenade, his second album under the Columbia label. References to both suburbia and the inner city pepper the album. The standout track on the album is "The Entertainer," which picks up thematically where "Piano Man" left off. Joel was upset that "Piano Man" had been significantly edited down in order to make it more radio-friendly, and in "The Entertainer," he refers to the edit with sarcastic lines such as, "If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05." This refers to the album version of this song which is 5:37, and the edited single which is 3:05. Although Streetlife Serenade is considered one of Joel's weaker albums (Joel has confirmed his distaste for the album), it still contains some notable tracks including the title track, with its Debussy-like intro, "Los Angelenos," and the instrumental "The Mexican Connection."
Disenchanted with the LA music scene, Joel returned to New York in 1975. There he recorded what many fans and critics consider one of his best albums, Turnstiles. On Turnstiles, Joel used his own hand-picked musicians in the studio for the first time, and took a more hands-on role. Songs were initially recorded and produced by famed Chicago producer James William Guercio, who subsequently was fired. The songs were re-recorded and Joel took over, producing the album himself. Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" was a minor hit, echoed the Phil Spector sound, and was even covered by Ronnie Spector. The album also featured the New York anthem, "New York State of Mind," a bluesy, jazzy epic that has become one of Joel's signature songs and was later covered by fellow Columbia labelmate Barbra Streisand on her Streisand Superman album. Other top songs on the album include "Summer, Highland Falls," and "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)." Songs such as "Prelude/Angry Young Man" would become a mainstay of his concerts for years.
Becoming a superstar 1977–81
The Stranger (1977)
For his album The Stranger (album), Columbia Records united Joel with producer Phil Ramone. The album yielded four Top 40 hits on the Billboard Charts in the US. Album sales exceeded Columbia's previous top album, Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, and was certified multi-platinum. It was Joel's first Top Ten album, as it rose to # 2 on the charts. Phil Ramone eventually produced every Billy Joel studio release until 1989's Storm Front (album). The Stranger netted Joel Grammy nominations, for Album of the Year and Song of the Year, for "Just the Way You Are", which was written as a gift to his wife Elizabeth and became his highest charting song to date in the United States. "Just The Way You Are" won a Grammy for Song of the Year and The Stranger won for Record of the Year
52nd Street (1978)
Joel faced high expectations on his next album. 52nd Street (album) was conceived as a day in Manhattan, and was named after the block where Columbia Records' office was located. Fans purchased over seven million copies on the strength of the hits "My Life", "Big Shot," and "Honesty." This helped 52nd Street become Joel's first # 1 album. "My Life" eventually became the theme song for a new US television sitcom, Bosom Buddies, which featured actor Tom Hanks in one of his earliest roles. 52nd Street was the first album to be released on Compact Disc in Japan (1982). The album won Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male & Album of the Year.
Glass Houses (1980)
The success of his piano-driven ballads like "Just the Way You Are" and "Honesty" never sat well with him. With Glass Houses, Joel attacked the new wave popularity with aplomb. This album yielded such classics as "You May Be Right" (# 7, May 1980), "Close To The Borderline"(flipside of the "You May Be Right" single), "Don't Ask Me Why" (# 19, September 1980), "Sometimes A Fantasy" (# 36, November 1980) and "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me," which became Joel's first Billboard # 1 song in July, 1980. Glass Houses won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. It would also win the American Music Award for Favorite Album, Pop/Rock category.
Songs In The Attic (1981)
His next release, Songs In The Attic, was composed of live performances of less well-known songs from the beginning of his career. Songs In The Attic was recorded during arena and club shows in June and July of 1980. This release introduced many fans, who just discovered Joel when The Stranger became a smash in 1977, to many of his earlier compositions.
Building on success 1982–86
The Nylon Curtain (1982)
The next wave of Joel's career commenced with the recording of The Nylon Curtain. Considered his most audacious and ambitious album, Joel took more than a page or two from the John Lennon-Paul McCartney songwriting style on this heavily Beatles-influenced album. Work began on The Nylon Curtain in the spring of 1982. However, Joel was sidelined when he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. The driver ran a red light and collided with Joel, who was on his motorcycle. His left wrist was broken and his hand badly damaged. Due to surgery, which included the temporary insertion of five pins into his wrist, and a month in the hospital, production of the album was shut down temporarily while Joel recovered. In the meantime, Joel's first video special, Live from Long Island, was recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, on December 30, 1982. The Nylon Curtain went to # 7 on the charts, supported by the popular singles "Allentown (song)", Goodnight Saigon, and Pressure. Allentown rose to # 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the most-played radio songs of 1982 and the most successful song from The Nylon Curtain album. The album is considered by many of his fans to be the masterpiece of his works. Joel's marriage began to suffer as his success rose, and on July 20, 1983, Joel and wife Elizabeth divorced. In accordance with the divorce agreement, Elizabeth took half of the singer's assets. Following his tour supporting The Nylon Curtain, Joel retreated to the island of Saint-Barthélemy for rest and relaxation. At the hotel's bar, he met supermodel Christie Brinkley, who had been divorced from her husband Jean-François Allaux. They eventually became a couple, and married on March 23, 1985.
An Innocent Man (1983)
The song "Uptown Girl" was one of the first songs written when Joel returned from vacation. "Uptown Girl" was conceived as Joel wondered aloud how the gorgeous Christie Brinkley could wind up with a guy like him. It became a worldwide hit upon its release, and Joel's sole # 1 in the United Kingdom. The resulting album, An Innocent Man, was compiled as a tribute to the doo-wop music of the 1950s, and also resulted in Joel's second Billboard magazine # 1 hit, "Tell Her About It." The album, which reached # 4 on the charts, boasted 6 top-30 singles, the most of any album in Joel's catalog. An Innocent Man was also nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, but ultimately lost to Michael Jackson's Thriller (album).
Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 (1985)
Following the success of An Innocent Man, Joel had been approached to release an album of his most successful singles. This was not the first time this topic had come up, but Joel had initially considered "Greatest Hits" albums as marking the end of one's career. This time, he agreed, and Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 was released as a 4-sided album and 2-CD set, with the songs in sequence of when they were released. The new songs "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" and "The Night Is Still Young" were recorded and released as singles to support the album. Greatest Hits was highly successful, selling over 20 million copies worldwide and becoming the top-selling double album of all time by a solo artist (and second overall after The Wall by Pink Floyd). It has since been certified Diamond album by the RIAA for 10.5 million albums sold (21 million disks). To date it is the 6th best selling album in American music history according to the RIAA. Coinciding with the Greatest Hits album release, Joel released a 2-volume Video Album that was a compilation of the promotional videos he had recorded from 1977 to the present time. Along with videos for the new singles off the Greatest Hits album, Joel also recorded a video for his first hit, "Piano Man," for this project. Two versions of Greatest Hits were released on CD: the initial release on double CD in 1985, and a re-released Enhanced CD version in 1998. While both are the same basic album in general, there are a number of subtle differences between the two:
The Bridge (1986)
Joel had already scored a hit with "Modern Woman" from the 1985 movie, "Ruthless People," (starring Bette Midler, Danny DeVito, and Judge Reinhold) when he began work on the album that would become The Bridge (Billy Joel album) in early 1986. Ray Charles contributed vocals and music to the song "Baby Grand" with Joel, and Steve Winwood played Hammond organ on the song "Getting Closer." The final song recorded for the album was "Code Of Silence." Cyndi Lauper appears on the album, contributing backing vocals. Though it broke into the Top Ten, The Bridge was not a success in relation to some of Joel's other albums, but it yielded the hit "A Matter Of Trust." In a departure from his "piano man" persona, Joel is shown in its video as playing a Les Paul-autographed Gibson guitar. The ballad "This Is The Time" also charted, and has been a favorite on the prom circuit ever since. "Modern Woman" was also released as a single and was quite successful, but Joel has since said in interviews he doesn't care for the song, and subsequently it has been left off most of his compilation sets (the exception appears to be My Lives). It was also the last Billy Joel album to carry the "Family Productions" logo. At around this time, Billy completed voice work on Disney's Oliver & Company, released in 1988. A loose adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, Billy brought both his acting and musical talents to the film as Dodger. For the film, Billy recorded a song titled "Why Should I Worry?" Critics were generally positive towards the film, and pointed to Billy's acting contribution as one of its highlights, despite it being his first acting job. In interviews, Billy explained that he took the job due to his love of The Walt Disney Company cartoons as a child.
The USSR period 1987–89
Throughout his tour supporting The Bridge, Joel and his handlers started planning a trip to the Soviet Union. He would be the first American rock act to play there since the Berlin Wall went up, a fact not lost on history buff Joel. There would be six live performances, three each at indoor arenas in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Joel and his family (including young daughter Alexa) and his full touring band made the trip in June 1987. The entourage was filmed for television and video to eventually offset the cost of the trip, and the concerts were simulcast on radio around the world. The audience in at least the first Moscow shows was filled with members of the Communist Party, who received tickets from the government as a perk. Most of that audience took a long while to warm up to Joel's energetic show, something that never had happened in other countries he had performed in. As a result of that a minor international incident occurred when he famously flipped over an electric keyboard during the second Moscow show as a show of frustration that his lighting engineers would not turn down the house lights to calm the audience despite several requests. The lighting engineers were more concerned with the amount of light being adequate for filming. http://www.joelfanmedia.com/gallery/details.php?image_id=406&sessionid=9939575b3bb9ac38c88758773445f6a0
The album КОНЦЕРТ, Russian for "Concert," was released in the fall of 1987. Singer Peter Hewlitt was brought in to hit the high notes on his most vocally challenging songs, like "An Innocent Man." It has been estimated that Joel lost over US $1 million of his own money on the trip and concerts, but he has said the goodwill he was shown there was well worth it.
Later albums 1989–94
Storm Front (1989)
The song "We Didn't Start the Fire," the first single from the album Storm Front (album), was released in September 1989. The song became Joel's third US Number 1 hit. Storm Front was released in October, and it eventually became Joel's first Number 1 album since Glass Houses, 9 years earlier. Storm Front was Joel's first album since Turnstiles to be recorded without Phil Ramone as producer. For this album, he wanted a new sound, and worked with Mick Jones (Foreigner) of Foreigner (band) fame. Joel also brought in some fresh faces to join the band, including talented multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero, who would go on to become Joel's musical director and architect of his live sound. After "We Didn't Start The Fire," Storm Front also produced the hit "I Go To Extremes." The album was also notable for its song "Leningrad (song)," written after Joel met a clown in the Soviet city during his tour in 1987, and "The Downeaster Alexa," written to underscore the plight of fishermen on Long Island who are barely able to make ends meet. Another well-known single from the album was the ballad "And So It Goes." In 1992, Joel sued former manager and ex-brother-in-law Frank Weber (ex-wife Elizabeth's brother) for $95 million after accounting irregularities were discovered. The case later settled out of court.
River of Dreams (1993)
Joel started work on River of Dreams in early 1993. Its cover art was a colorful painting by Christie Brinkley that was a series of scenes from each of the songs on the album. The eponymous first single was the last top 10 hit Joel has penned to date. The album includes hits such as "The River of Dreams", "All About Soul", "The Great Wall of China", and "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)", written for his daughter, Alexa Ray Joel. A radio remix version of "All About Soul" can be found on "The Essential Billy Joel" (2001).
In August 1995, Billy Joel's long-time bass guitar Doug Stegmeyer committed suicide in his Long Island home. Stegmeyer had played on every one of Joel's albums from Turnstiles through The Bridge. In 1999 Joel performed at New York's Madison Square Garden on the eve of the new millennium which at the time was considered to be Joel's last solo concert, The concert (dubbed The Night Of The 2000 Years) ran on close to 4 hours and was later released as 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert In 2001 Joel released Fantasies & Delusions, a collection of classical piano pieces. All were written by Billy Joel and performed by Richard Joo. Joel often uses bits of these songs as interludes in live performances. The album topped the classical charts at # 1. On September 21, 2001, Joel performed "New York State of Mind" live as part of the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert. Joel has toured extensively with Elton John on a series of "Face to Face" tours. During these shows, the two have played each other's songs and performed duets. In 2005, Columbia released a box set, My Lives, which is largely a compilation of demos, B-tracks, and live/alternate versions to hit songs. The compilation also includes the Umixit software, in which people can remix "Zanzibar", "Only The Good Die Young", "Keepin' The Faith", and live versions of "I Go To Extremes" and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" with their PC. Also, a DVD of a show from the River of Dreams tour is included. On January 7, 2006, Joel began a tour across the United States. Having not written any new songs, he featured a sampling of all his songs in his career, including his major hits. His tour includes an unprecedented 12 sold-out concerts over several months at Madison Square Garden in New York City. On June 13, 2006, Joel released "12 Gardens: Live", a double album containing 32 live recordings from a collection of 12 different shows at Madison Square Garden during his 2006 tour. The singer's stint of 12 shows at Madison Square Garden broke a previous record set by New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen when he played 10 sold-out shows at the same arena. The record has consequently earned Joel the only retired number in the arena owned by a non-athlete. The retired number, which was 12, hangs in the rafters along with many others such as hockey great Mark Messier. 2006 also saw Billy Joel visit the United Kingdom and Ireland (as part of the European leg of his 2006 tour) for the first time in many years, playing to capacity crowds in Birmingham, Sheffield, Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow, London and Dublin. On July 31, 2006, Joel performed a free concert in Rome, Italy with the Colosseum as the backdrop, and performed classic hits for hundreds of thousands of fans. Joel performed favorites such as "New York State of Mind," "Honesty," and "Just the Way You Are." While introducing one song, the 57-year-old singer joked in shaky Italian language, "This song is as old as the Colosseum." Organizers estimated 500,000 people turned out for the show. The concert was opened by Canadian pop-rocker and songwriter Bryan Adams. Billy Joel will tour South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii in late 2006.
Joel's lyrics have made many references to locations in the New York City metropolitan area, particularly Long Island. For example, the "Miracle Mile" line in 1980's "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" refers to the affluent shopping district located on Northern Boulevard in the community of Manhasset and 1980's "You May Be Right" references walking through the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn alone as proof of craziness. In his 1973 song "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," he describes a certain "Billy" as being from the town of Oyster Bay (town), New York, the municipality in which the hamlet of Hicksville is located. He has since stated, in the liner notes from his album Songs in the Attic, that this "Billy" is not himself, but rather an Oyster Bay bartender. Several of Joel's songs have grown out of specific personal experiences, including "Piano Man," which he wrote describing his regular job playing at a Los Angeles piano bar in the early 1970s, and "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," purportedly written about either the Syosset mainstay Christiano's or a similar eatery in New York City's Little Italy, Manhattan. His song "Vienna" was supposedly written about a visit to his father in Europe, while "Big Shot" was based on a bad dating with Mick Jagger's ex-wife Bianca Jagger. In a Playboy interview, Joel indicated that "Rosalinda's Eyes" was penned for his mother, Rosalinda, as the song his father should have written for her. "Only The Good Die Young" created a bit of a stir within the religious community when it was first released in 1977. Some radio stations even refused to give the song any airtime. It is said that while Joel was doing a show in St. Louis, Missouri, he had been specifically asked not to perform the song during the show and even received death threats; in response, Joel played it twice. Joel has said about the song that "the point of the song wasn't so much anti-Catholic as it was pro-lust".
His music reflects influences from many different genres including European classical composers, Aaron Copland, 1950s doo wop, musical theatre/Tin Pan Alley, jazz, blues, punk rock, ska, gospel music, pop, and even Russian folk songs, to straight-up rock & roll. This has, in part, led to his broad success over a long period of time, but made him difficult to categorize in popular music today.
In the mid 1970s, the touring and studio lineup of Joel's band stabilized. The main lineup consisted of:
Despite having never graduated from high school, Joel has been presented with multiple honorary doctorates:
Joel married his business manager Elizabeth Weber on May 20, 1971. The marriage ended in divorce on July 20, 1983. Joel went on to marry supermodel Christie Brinkley on March 23, 1985. Their marriage produced one child, daughter Alexa Ray Joel, born December 29, 1985. Alexa was given the middle name of Ray after Ray Charles, one of Joel's musical idols. This marriage ended with divorce on August 25, 1994, although the couple remains quite friendly. In 2004, Joel married 23 year-old Katie Lee Joel. Lee is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Ohio. At the time of the wedding, Joel was 54. Joel's daughter, Alexa Ray, 18, served as maid of honor. Joel's second wife, Christie Brinkley, attended the union and gave the couple her blessing. Lee works as a restaurant correspondent for the PBS show, George Hirsch: Living it Up!. In 2006, Katie Lee hosted Bravo (television network)'s Top Chef.
In 2002 he crashed his car in East Hampton, New York, and soon after entered Silver Hill Hospital, a substance abuse and psychiatric center in New Canaan, Connecticut. In 2003 Joel crashed his car into a tree in eastern Long Island, and was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/2695785.stm In April 2004, Joel crashed his car into a house on Long Island http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/26/entertainment/main613694.shtml. In March 2005 Joel checked into a Betty Ford rehabilitation centerhttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/16/entertainment/main681053.shtml, where he spent 30 days.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4439343.stm
DVD, Video and notable TV appearances
Credits on Broadway
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/