Allentown – Billy Joel

Billy Joel’s song, “Allentown”, emphasizes the hardships that individuals endured during the 1960 and 1970s with loss of jobs at steel and lumber companies, as well as war. “And it’s hard to keep a good man down” (Allentown). Although this song does not directly say anything positive about Allentown (or Bethlehem), it does indirectly portray how resilient the working-class were during times of economical struggles, as well as the honor they had for their hometown because they stayed even during hard times.

I strongly feel this song connects to the poem we read in class, The Lake Isle of Inisfree by William Yeats, because both the poet and lyricist are displaying their passion towards two different places, which are Inisfree and Allentown (or Bethlehem). Innisfree gives the individual a sense of serenity when the author is listening to the “…crickets sing…” and “…water lapping…” (Yeats), however Allentown is a place of chaos where people are in working in coal and steel factories working to make a living.  “Allentown” contains a rhythmic intensity when the instruments and singing combine. Many words are drawn out, such as when Billy Joel says “And it’s getting very hard to stay” (Allentown). The lyrics express strong feelings of anguish and hopelessness as these individuals were struggling to make a living, however they took so much pride in their town.

 

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