Billy Joel - who turns 67 today - is known for causing controversy with the sexual overtones of his hit Only the Good Die Young and the scathing criticism of American society in Christmas in Fallujah. But the strangest furor that he ever caused happened in 2000, when Hillary Clinton - who is often criticized for being wishy-washy on issues like marijuana legalization - was accused of being being too pro-pot because of a mishap with a CD player.
Here's what happened.
When Hillary Clinton publicly announced her Senate campaign in February 2008, she brought two musical acts to celebrate the event. To fill the silence between sets, someone at the venue played tracks from Joel's Greatest Hits album. One of those songs was "Captain Jack", which contains explicit lyrics about marijuana and other drugs.
Her rival for the senate seat - former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - quickly harped on the incident.
"The message that got out [from the press conference] by mistake was: 'Let's say yes to drugs,'" Giuliani told reporters after reading the following lyrics from the song: "Captain Jack will get you high tonight / and take you to your special island / Captain Jack will get you by tonight / just a little push and you'll be smiling."
The song also contains the line, "So you play your albums, and you smoke your pot."
The Clinton campaign distanced themselves from the song by saying they hadn't chosen it. But Communications Director Howard Wolfson couldn't resist the temptation to slam Giuliani for taking partisan jabs at pop culture. "Apparently the mayor has now turned his relentless negative attacks on Billy Joel."
'Captain Jack' was actually an anti-drug song
The irony was apparently lost on both campaigns. During concerts, Joel often introduces "Captain Jack" as an anti-drug song. And in a 1982 interview with Playboy, he said the tune lamented the "useless, wasted deaths" of friends who abused drugs.
"Some guys who lived near me in Oyster Bay [Long Island] used to score smack from a guy called Captain Jack, although I didn't write it to necessarily mean heroin. I meant any kind of drug you have to take over and over again."
In that same interview, he opened up about his own experience with cannabis, which he stopped using regularly because of the munchies.
"I smoked pot when I lived in California," said Billy Joel. "For some reason or another, it made sense. It was just part of what they call the mellow life....When I got back to New York, I stopped. It just didn't make sense anymore, and I was eating too many chocolate-chip cookies."
But he added that he still enjoyed a joint now and again - in moderation.
"After a show, I'll have a smoke sometimes. I'll have a couple of beers, some Scotch. That's it. Nothing to excess, though I've tried everything once."
So grab a pint or a joint and let the piano man take you away.
banner image: Shutterstock / Anthony Correia