The Stranger is the fifth studio album by musician Billy Joel, released in 1977. While his four previous albums had been moderate chart successes, this was his breakthrough album, and is generally regarded by critics as his magnum opus, spending six weeks at #2 in the U.S. album charts. It remains Joel's best-selling non-compilation album to date and was ranked number 67 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The Stranger contained nine songs; "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "She's Always a Woman," "Just The Way You Are," "Everybody Has A Dream," and "Only The Good Die Young" were all written prior to recording, while "Vienna," "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," "The Stranger," and "Get It Right The First Time" all came from short tunes or fragments of songs that Joel finished in the studio. Each song had stories attached to it. The seven-and-a-half-minute epic "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" began as the shorter "Ballad of Brenda and Eddie," a section that now forms the third part of the song. Joel came up with the signature whistle line for the title track, which he whistled to producer Phil Ramone, claiming that he needed to find an instrument to play it. Ramone replied: "No, you don't. That's 'The Stranger,' the whistling."
Four singles from the LP charted on the Billboard Hot 100: "Just The Way You Are," (#3), "Movin' Out" (#17), "She's Always a Woman," (#17), and "Only The Good Die Young" (#24). Many of the songs on the album are now staples on classic rock FM radio stations.
Much of the album's success is attributed to Joel's collaboration with producer Phil Ramone, whose innovative production methods complemented Joel's songs. This fruitful collaboration would continue for a decade. Singles released from the album include "Just the Way You Are" (which won the Grammy for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year), the acoustic ballad "She's Always A Woman," the mildly controversial "Only the Good Die Young," and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," which later lent its title to Movin' Out, an acclaimed hit Broadway musical based on Billy Joel's songs. This album overtook Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water album to become the best-selling album on the Columbia Records imprint at the time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 67 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.