He learned boxing to defend himself from bullies, and won 22 bouts in the amateur Golden Gloves circuit. He played the piano at bars to help support his mother while in high school.
From 1973 to 2013, he wrote 33 top forty hits, including "Just the Way You Are," which hit #3 in 1977.
He married Elizabeth Weber on September 5, 1973, Christie Brinkley on March 23, 1985, Katie Lee on October 2, 2004, and Alexis Roderick on July 4, 2015. He has a daughter named Alexa.
In 1994, he went on the Face to Face tour with Elton John, however they later had a public spat because of critical comments Elton made about Joel.