John Lennon was legendary even before his death. The iconic singer-songwriter and founding member of The Beatles would have turned 76 on Oct. 9, 2016 and his legacy continues to influence today’s artists. Billy Joel credits Lennon as a major influence on his music during the early ’80s and and shared a personal story about his idol on The Billy Joel Channel (Ch. 18).

The two musicians were practically neighbors at one point, living across the water from each other on the North Shore of Long Island. And, while they each knew of the other’s house, neither one acted on their desire to visit.

“I had not met John, but I understood from his friend, a guy named Fred Seaman, that he used to row his boat by my house, [which] was right on the water. And he said to Fred, ‘I’d like to go say hi to Billy Joel but I don’t want to bother him,’” Joel recalled. “And the funny thing is that I used to drive my boat by his house and think about pulling up on the beach, going to his door and knocking on [it], but I didn’t want to bother him either. We both respected each other’s privacy. And due to that, we never got to meet each other. … I wish he would’ve just stopped and knocked on the door. It would’ve been nice. It would’ve been a nice thing.”

Lennon rose to fame in the 1960s as one of the lead singers of The Beatles. When The Beatles disbanded in 1970, Lennon embarked on a successful solo career producing two albums, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, before taking a break from music in 1975 raise his son, Sean. He reemerged 5 years later with a joint album recorded with Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy, but was murdered three weeks after its release.

Lennon’s death in 1980 deeply affected Joel’s songwriting, although he wasn’t aware of it at the time. It was only after he recorded his 1982 album, The Nylon Curtain, that Joel realized he had been working to recreate Lennon’s signature sound.

“I had never realized how much John Lennon had meant to me, how much he and Paul [McCartney] were the irreplaceable sweet and sour,” Joel was quoted as saying in Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography. “It was only later that I realized I was channeling John in a lot of the vocals on that album.”

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Photo credit: Jeff Schock (left); AP Photo (right)

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