An unannounced performance from Billy Joel as he closes out New York City’s Coronavirus telethon
by Trent Sell
On May 11, Billy Joel sang “Miami 2017” while a light show synced to his performance displayed on top of the Empire State Building. This was the finale of Robin Hood & iHeartRadio’s “Rise Up New York” virtual telethon, hosted by Tina Fey.
It was a moment of peace and solidarity for New Yorkers and others who tuned in to the virtual event. As the lights of Broadway and top of the Empire State Building shined over the city, you couldn’t but help feel a sense of community during these unprecedented times.
Billy Joel released “Miami 2017” in 1976 and is a song that he often refers to as “science fiction.” The lyrics express a future moment when New York City has fallen to the wayside and inhabitants have left. Many fans draw to this song as a symbol of unity during difficult times.
In a 2013 Q&A he explained the inspiration behind writing this song. In 1975 when New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy, they were denied a federal loan. The country saw New York City going under. Joel Explained, “I was living in L.A. at the time, and everyone in L.A. was like, ‘Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, New York City’s gonna go down the tube.”
He decided to move back to NYC and wrote this song with the uncertainty of the cities future on his mind. “… I’m picturing New York, the apocalypse … the skyline tumbling down … this horrendous conflagration happening in New York City.” He then imagined himself, having retired to Florida, telling his grandchildren how he’d “seen the lights go out on Broadway,” said Joel.
The “Rise Up New York Telethon” aimed to raise funds for non-profit organizations supporting the front lines. To date, the foundation has raised and distributed over $20 million.
Leading into Joel’s finale performance, governor Andrew Cuomo told New Yorkers that fight against the virus is shifting and the “virus is under retreat.”
The number of hospitalizations is down, the infection rate is down and all the arrows are pointed in the right direction. … It’s been hard and we are not done yet, but we’ve faced adversity before – in 9/11, with Superstorm Sandy – and we don’t just build back. We build back better than before.” – Andrew Cuomo
Watch the full video here.