When conversations turn to great drummers of the classic-rock era, Liberty DeVitto’s name is invariably near the top of the list. After appearing on the scene in the mid-’70s, the New York native began a thirty-year stint with pop icon Billy Joel, creating the grooves for thirteen platinum albums, including twenty-two of Joel’s twenty-three top-40 hits. DeVitto’s style, which combines huge backbeats with expressive fills, anchored by an enormous kick drum, can be found not only on such classic Joel albums as Turnstiles, The Stranger, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, and Storm Front, but on recordings by Meat Loaf, Rick Wakeman, Carly Simon, Paul McCartney, and Karen Carpenter.
DeVitto’s new memoir, Liberty: Life, Billy and the Pursuit of Happiness, details his early career on Long Island, going from the garage to weddings to nightclubs to early Joel tours, his ascendence to the big time, and, eventually, his dealings with fame: confronting its challenges, enjoying its perks, and, sometimes, getting tripped up by its pitfalls. A colorful writer, DeVitto uniquely captures the stories behind Joel’s hits and the people who helped make them. Liberty’s not shy about getting personal or addressing his own shortcomings, poignantly describing the heartache of losing family and band members, his struggles with addiction, and his personal and professional rebirth with the Lords of 52nd Street, the Slim Kings, and Little Kids Rock, a non-profit that brings music to schools whose funding has been cut.