Why Billy Joel Wanted to Be Diana Ross on ‘Tell Her About It’
The first’s impact was pretty obvious. Joel divorced his first wife, Elizabeth Weber, in 1982, and the newly single singer and songwriter said he “felt like a teenager all over again,” enjoying the heights of fame as he began dating again. The connection with his teen years helped inspire the direction of his next album, 1983’s An Innocent Man, which was filled with many of his late-'50s and early '60s doo-wop and pop influences.
As he was crafting the LP, Joel started dating Brinkley, one of the most famous models in the world at the time. Their romance would have a profound effect on An Innocent Man, inspiring several of the album’s songs, including “Tell Her About It,” which Joel wrote after he realized he could talk to Brinkley for hours about everything and nothing at all.
But as far as the song's musical direction, Joel turned to a different source of female power. “I wrote ‘Tell Her About It’ in the middle of recording the Innocent Man album, which was turning out to be a thematic album of the music of my youth,” Joel recalled to Sirius XM in 2016. “And I realized, ‘You know what I don’t have in here? I don’t have the Supremes!’”
Joel began thinking about the Motown group behind such timeless hits as “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.” “They had a million hits, the Supremes. And they were always giving advice to girls [in their lyrics],” Joel explained. “And I thought, ‘All right, I’m gonna write a song like that. And I’m gonna be Diana Ross.’”
Watch Billy Joel's 'Tell Her About It' Video
“Tell Her About It” found Joel taking on a mentor role. The opening lines - “Listen, boy, I don't want to see you let a good thing slip away / You know I don't like watching anybody make the same mistakes I made” - establish the narrator as an advisor on all matters of the heart, while the chorus delivers the most important advice: “Tell her about it, tell her everything you feel / Give her every reason to accept that you're for real.”
Released as the lead single from An Innocent Man on July 17, 1983, “Tell Her About It” climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its popularity foreshadowed the album’s success. An Innocent Man would go on to sell more than 7 million copies in the U.S. and gave Joel two Grammy nominations in the process.
Even though the singer’s romance with Brinkley wouldn’t last – their 1985 marriage ended in divorce in 1994 – “Tell Her About It” has endured. “I wanted to write a Supremes song,” Joel explained matter-of-factly. “I loved the Supremes records. They were great. And that was my version.”