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    Billy Joel in Rehab

    Billy Joel is apparently looking for a substance-free state of mind.

    The Piano Man has checked into Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut for treatment in its chemical dependency program, according to a report in the local Advocate of Stamford.

    The 53-year-old Joel shelved concert dates on his Face to Face Tour 2002 with fellow ivory-tickler Elton John and was admitted to the facility last week to seek counseling for an undisclosed substance abuse problem, the Advocate reported, citing unidentified sources.

    A hospital spokesperson on Wednesday refused to confirm whether the entertainer was being treated there, citing patient confidentiality.

    Joel's record label, Sony Entertainment, originally issued a statement on blaming the canceled shows on illness, saying the Hall of Fame singer-songwriter was suffering from acute laryngitis, inflamed vocal cords and an upper-respiratory infection.

    However, reps for Joel finally came clean on Wednesday and issued a statement confirming he was in the clinic for an undisclosed "personal problem."

    "Billy Joel recently checked himself into Silver Hill Hospital for a planned 10-day stay to deal with a specific and personal problem that had recently developed. Joel scheduled his stay in Silver Hill several weeks ago and expects to leave the facility in a few days, as planned."

    Silver Hill hospital's drug and psychiatric center is notable for treating such celebrities as Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Gregg Allman and, most recently, Mariah Carey, who sought counseling there after suffering an "emotional and physical breakdown" last summer.

    Joel, the Long Island native known for such classic hits as "Only the Good Die Young," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "Uptown Girl," "She's Always a Woman" and "New York State of Mind," hasn't had an album of new material since 1993's River of Dreams. (There have been several greatest-hits compilations, a live album and a classical album of piano compositions, Fantasies & Delusions, for which he wrote the music but didn't perform.)

    Still, he has been a workhorse on the road, touring constantly by himself and with John. Joel--who has won six Grammys, including the Living Legend Award--has admitted in his Behind the Music to losing millions of dollars over the years to unscrupulous managers and needing to tour to recharge his bank account.

    In 1998, he was forced to scrap several dates of a European tour after coming down with a bad case of laryngitis.

    However, in a review of a Face to Face show in March, the New York Times hinted that Joel was facing more than just throat problems.

    "When Mr. Joel emerged for his set, there was sympathy as well as adulation: The audience had been warned that he had a cold. But Mr. Joel seemed to have ingested something quite a bit stronger than cough syrup," wrote critic Kelefa Sanneh.

    Sanneh added: "The concert ended with an unusual rendition of Mr. Joel's "Piano Man." As he got to the most famous line--"Son, can you play me a memory? I'm not really sure how it goes"--Mr. Joel looked as if he were about to nod off. And so, with Sir Elton's help, the audience took over the role of the piano man, singing a sentimental song to a washed-out fellow who once knew the words."

    In a recent 60 Minutes interview, the twice-divorced Joel told Steve Kroft that, while he can't hit the high notes like he used to, he still looks forward to putting on a good show and is "happier now than I have been in a long time."

    "You know, happiness is an extreme, just like sadness is an extreme. I think there's a great deal to be said for contentment. And I'm a very contented person," he said.



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