"Root Beer Rag" is fast, rollicking, modern rag. Ragtime music enjoyed a short resurgence after the success of the movie "The Sting" (1973) and its soundtrack featuring the ragtime music of Scott Joplin and others. Naturally, the piano man had to take a shot at writing his own ragtime piece. Billy has said that he composed the song after he had acquired a Moog synthesizer and wanted to use it in a song. See audio player, below.
"Root Beer Rag" is an enjoyable, fun piece, allowing Billy to show off his formidable piano skills. It has broken the heart and spirit of aspiring pianists who have tried to emulate Billy Joel, just like the cascading piano solo in "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant."
Despite the idiosyncratic nature of the song, it was a fan favorite in concerts during Billy's early years and into the late 1970's. It largely disappeared from his live set in the 1980's until making a re-appearance in the late 2000's.
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Here is short live recording in 1974 of Billy playing Joplin's "The Entertainer" from YouTube (audio only).
Billy discusses why he wrote "Root Beer Rag," from a 1994 Master Class.
Billy discusses and plays "Root Beer Rag" on SiriusXM in 2016.
"Root Beer Rag" was the clever name of the Billy Joel fan newsletter that came out in 1980.
Studio version of "Root Beer Rag" (audio only) (1974)
A rockin' live version of "Root Beer Rag" (audio only) from a concert at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in 1975.
Performance of "Root Beer Rag" from 1978 . . .
. . . and a live performance from 2013's New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Pianist Lang Lang joins Billy for a duet of "Root Beer Rag" at MSG in 2019.