How to Explain to Your White Friends That You Don’t Know Who Billy Joel is Because Your Dad is an Immigrant

So you’re talking to your white friends and one of them has just mentioned Billy Joel. From context clues, you have gathered that Mr. Joel is a man who makes or has made music of some genre using his voice and possibly an instrument. But as the conversation wears on and all your attempts at changing the topic fail, you dread drawing attention to the cultural gap that exists between you and your companions by revealing that you have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about right now. Here is how to finally admit that, “Yeah, I’m not really sure who Billy Joel is because my dad is an immigrant.”


Divert the Blame

The immediate reaction won’t be pretty. Mouths will drop, and you will hear such phrases as “you don’t know the Piano Man?” in a tone indicating Judas-levels of personal betrayal. But remember, it’s not your fault – it’s your dad’s. It’s nice that he gave up everything he ever knew to raise you in a country halfway across the world, but it’s left him in a position where all his American pop culture references start in the year 1994. He effectively failed at his primary duty as a father, which was to play popular music in the car as a kid so you would later be able to relate to your white friends who are far too enthusiastic about Gordon Lightfoot for their age. In fact, you are owed sympathy for the fact that you were loved and cared for by a man who wasn’t lucky enough to be raised on the greatest names in music but instead listened to lame artists from another country, or something.


Drive the Point Home

Now that you’ve given up on any semblance of assimilation in white America, feel free to take this opportunity to air your grievances with every other Baby Boomer Icon you’ve ever been expected to know about. Let your friends know that Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty are completely interchangeable names to you. Neil Young and Billy Idol are nothing more than vague concepts in your brain. If you had to name a song by a single one of those artists, you would simply open a dictionary and put every single adjective before the word ‘Girl’ until you landed on the title of what your friends would call an “all-time classic” by sheer force of probability.



Time to Backpedal

It’ll be around this point in your tirade that you suddenly remember that “Vienna” played at your high school graduation, and that, every time someone has told you, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” that was actually a reference to a Billy J song and not simply an apropos-of-nothing denial of arson charges. “Ohhh no way,” you say to your now-irritated group of friends as you realize that you do actually know a thing or two about William Martin Joel. Pat yourself on the back and call your father to apologize.


So use these tried and true approaches to managing the chaos of your white friends finding out that Billy Joel was not an important part of your upbringing or relationship with your father. And if you just remembered you know “Uptown Girl” too, just keep it to yourself.