Liberty DeVitto Explains How He Reconciled With Billy Joel After Lawsuit

For over 30 years, Liberty DeVitto was Billy Joel's drummer — his friend, confidant and ally — until all of the sudden he wasn't anymore.

DeVitto has known Joel since they were teenagers in New York. He appeared on every Billy Joel tour and album from 1976 - 2006. And then he was abruptly fired for reasons that remained unknown to him for years.

DeVitto later answered his termination with a lawsuit. He and guitarist Russell Javors (who parted with Joel in 1989) recalled their experiences being dumped by Joel in the 2017 documentary, Hired Gun. The film's director, Fran Strine, once called Joel "heartless" for his treatment of his longtime band members.

But the bad blood has been left in the past. In a conversation with Q104.3 New York's Ken Dashow surrounding his forthcoming memoir, Liberty: Life, Billy and the Pursuit of Happiness, DeVitto recalled the moment he decided to reconnect with Joel.

An email sent one night by DeVitto to Joel's office was answered a day later by the Piano Man. They made plans to meet and decided to be friends again.

"When we got together we didn't talk about the bad stuff," DeVitto recalled. "It was all the good times we had, the children we have now. What our kids have done. Who's sick, who we lost. That kind of stuff and that's the way it's been since then."

As the years went by, DeVitto says the row was "eating me up." So much time wondering why Joel would do what he did actually brought about some answers when the drummer began thinking about it from Joel's perspective — the pressure he was under and the business that had been built up around him.

"He had reason," DeVitto explained of his firing. "This guy was so under the gun all the time. His name is on the marquee. You know, Madison Square Garden says 'Billy Joel Tonight.' It doesn't say 'Liberty DeVitto Tonight.'

"He's writing 12 to 14 songs for a new album. At least four of them have to be great to be singles, and he's playing piano and he's singing. The weight is all on his shoulders. ...I was able to look at it from his point of view, you know. And I thought this feud has to be over."

The foreword to DeVitto's memoir was written by Joel himself. Repairing the relationship has allowed the drummer to enjoy the music he created. It's given him the freedom to look back fondly on the "beautiful time that we had together."

DeVitto and Javors reconnected now play together again in the band Lords of 52nd Street, which is comprised of former members of Joel's band revisiting the music they helped create.

Liberty: Life, Billy and the Pursuit of Happiness is available now.

Photo: Getty Images

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