CRYSTAL TALIEFERO-A ROCK AND ROLL LEGEND FOR THE AGES By Sandra Castillo
She is poetry-in-motion, fluid, dexterous and equipped with enough fire power in those well-sculpted arms and hands to knock a baseball right out of Yankee Stadium into the next century. And, yet, the woman with enough talent, fortitude to fill that same stadium to overflowing is one of the most gracious, humble people on this planet.
Her name is Crystal Taliefero, who is currently touring and recording with international superstar Billy Joel. At Petco Park, on May 14th, the musician accompanied the Piano Man, along with Tommy Byrnes, Andy Cichon, Carl Fisher, Chuck Burgi and Mark Rivera, on Joel’s sold-out show in San Diego, California. She also performs with Joel and his band at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where audiences flock to see them play once a month at the iconic venue. Even after being in the music industry for more than five decades, Joel is still one of the most popular, in-demand entertainers in Rock and Roll. Dynamic, energetic and a force with which to be reckoned, Crystal is the lone she-wolf in a coterie that has some of the finest working musicians in the world. Not only is she bestowed with the kind of artistic prowess that would make any musician envious, worth his or her salt, Crystal is also that rare combination of grit and beauty. A quadruple threat, indeed!
Crystal has been praised by her peers for her talents and work ethics, which she has been sharing with the world since she began performing in local rhythm and blues clubs at the age of eleven. She was born in 1963, in Bourne, Massachusetts but was raised in Hammond, Indiana, from the time she was an infant until she was thirteen years old. She was a top athlete student at William A. Wirt High School, graduating in 1981. From there, Crystal attended Indiana University, where she studied music. She continued to play the local scene, gathering a loyal following. However, when she caught the attention of singer John Mellencamp, he was so impressed with her skills that he convinced Crystal to leave college and join his touring band. After a few years of performing and recording music, Mellencamp decided to take a break from it all and resume his turn as a painter. This was when Crystal made the decision to leave Indiana and head east to New York. In time, she was called in for an audition for another major artist, who was looking for someone to fill the slot for an open position in his new band, to record and tour behind his album Storm Front. When Billy Joel called on Crystal for the job, she obliged and has been with the Grammy Award winner since 1989.
Crystal is one of the most in-demand musicians in the industry, who has performed with the likes of Faith Hill, Joe Cocker, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Michael McDonald, Enrique Iglesias, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, The Bee Gees and more. She is incredibly adept on many musical instruments, including the saxophone, which she wielded like a kamikaze at Billy Joel’s concert in San Diego.
Rolling Stone Magazine published an article in 2008, “The 125-Plus People, Places and Things Ruling The Rock and Roll Universe,” proudly proclaiming Crystal as the “Best Secret Weapon.” Billy Joel has even stated this about his comrade-“Crystal is, without a doubt, the most talented multi-instrumentalist and vocal arranger I have ever worked with. I have been honored to have her as a member of my group for over 25 years.”
A few years ago, Indiana University honored Crystal with the prestigious Herman Hudson Alumni Award, which was established in 2005, “as part of the anniversary celebration commemorating 30 years of the African-American Arts Institute.” And, on September 9, 2014, she was presented the key to the city of Waterbury, Connecticut, in recognition of her excellence and outstanding achievements in music. With all of these accolades to her name, Crystal Taliefero has more than proven her rightful place in the canon of musical greats. She is definitely a Rock and Roll legend for the ages.