Note. This material is from an unofficial fan site that provides information and commentary on Billy Joel's music. It provides considerable additional examples of versions and interviews. It is found at https://www.onefinalserenade.com/and-so-it-goes.html.
This heart-breaking ballad, "And So It Goes," was published in 1989 as the closing song on the album, Storm Front. The song is about a doomed relationship or imminent break-up. Billy originally wrote it in 1983 when he was briefly dating model Elle McPherson. He has said that he knew the relationship was not going to last because of various career and professional commitments that each had. It was not released on 1983's An Innocent Man, however, since it did not fit into the retro style of that album. (One wonders why it was not put on 1986's The Bridge).
Billy released it as the closing number on Storm Front, and it is one of his most moving and authentic songs. The words and emotions are so raw, you can almost hear his heart cry ("every time I've held the rose, it seems I only felt the thorns" and "I would choose to be with you, that's if the choice were mine to make"). He is at his most vulnerable and open. He is openly telling her that "you can have this heart to break."
Music critic, John McAlley, wrote the following in a Rolling Stone review of Storm Front from 1989 -
"In dramatic fashion, Joel provides the otherwise tempestuous Storm Front with a coda of exquisite grace. The hymn-like "And So It Goes" takes the record's turbulent emotions and stills them in a moment of quiet revelation. Accompanied only by a piano and a discreet synthesizer, Joel proposes emotional vulnerability and reconciliation to life's uncertainties as a route to secular redemption. It is a note of startling maturity, at once mournful and bracing. And as the final word on an album that takes a serious look at a troubled world, it reflects the hard-earned wisdom of a no longer innocent man."
Billy's spare piano accompaniment is perfect for the subject and mood of the song. The music is almost anthemic, like a funeral dirge or hymn. It could have been an early 20th century American popular song, or a Scottish or Irish folk paean from the 17th century.
On the Sirius XM channel in 2016, Billy explained that when he was young he had a songbook of folk songs - the Fireside Book of Folk Songs. One of the songs in the book, the old English folk ballad "Barbara Allen," inspired the music to "And So It Goes." That site provides a link to Billy explaining this on his SiriusXM interview. That site also provides a link to a performance of "Barbara Allen" by Blackmore. In other interviews, he has stated that the song uses many unresolved, dissonant chords (that do not resolve to a tonic chord). That gives the song its tension and creates a feeling of unrequited, or at least unresolved, feelings.
"And So It Goes" was released as a single, reaching #37 on the Billboard charts, but is often overlooked on collections and discussions about Billy Joel's work. In an interview on the Howard Stern Show in 2010, when asked which of his songs he feels is least appreciated, Billy played "And So It Goes." And in a 2022 interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, when asked which song he is most proud of composing, Billy identified "And So It Goes." Many school choirs and other groups have covered the song. In 2022, "And So It Goes" was used in the television series This Is Us for the montage scene of Miguel's life.
Storm Front may have been a blues-rock album with an esoteric number one hit ("We Didn't Start The Fire"), but "And So It Goes" is a reminder that Billy Joel can still render the most beautiful ballad.
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