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You're Only Human (Second Wind)

"You're Only Human (Second Wind)" is a song written in 1985 and performed by Billy Joel. The song deals with teenage depression and suicide. It originally appeared on Billy Joel's Greatest Hits in 1985 and became a top ten hit, peaking at No.  9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"You're Only Human (Second Wind)"
Single by Billy Joel
from the album Greatest Hits - Volumes I & II
ReleasedAugust 23, 1985
RecordedJune 1985
Length4:48 (album version)
4:21 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Billy Joel
Producer(s)Phil Ramone
Billy Joel singles chronology
"Keeping the Faith"
"You're Only Human (Second Wind)"
"The Night Is Still Young"

Joel, who had once attempted suicide himself, stated in a 1985 interview that he wrote the song as a way to help young people struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide.[1] In his original draft, he was concerned that the song sounded too depressing so he re-wrote it with a bouncy, joyous beat and melody with lyrics that stressed personal forgiveness and optimism about life. The song was originally simply titled "Second Wind", but Joel changed it to "You're Only Human" with "Second Wind" as a subtitle after drummer Liberty Devitto mocked the name.[2] Joel donated all royalties from the song to the National Committee for Youth Suicide Prevention.[3]

During the song, Joel audibly laughs after briefly hesitating and stuttering during one of the verses. At the prompting of Paul Simon and Christie Brinkley, who were listening in the studio, he decided to keep it in the finished song as it seemed to illustrate his point in the song about personal fallibility.[1]


Music videoEdit

At the beginning of the video, Joel plays "Piano Man" on his harmonica. The entire video pays homage to It's a Wonderful Life,[2] as the angelic Joel shows a suicidal young man threatening to jump off a bridge because of a break-up with his girlfriend, what life will be like without him, as his family and friends mourn his death - as well as showing him the joys in his future he'll be missing if he dies (e.g. high school graduation, marriage). The video ends with the man choosing to live, and reconciling with his girlfriend when Billy Joel plays "Piano Man" once again before giving him his harmonica.

One of the extras in the music video is Adam Savage, who later gained fame as the co-host of the popular science television show MythBusters.[4]

The video was shot on Staten Island and Manhattan and features landmarks such as the 59th Street Bridge and Monsignor Farrell High School.

Single and album editsEdit

The single version is 27 seconds shorter than the album version, removing the saxophone solo between the bridge and the third verse.

Chart positionsEdit


  1. ^ a b Campbell, Mary (1985-09-05). "Billy Joel sees self as working homebody". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Marlene Aig (1985-07-23). "Joel to Aid Teen Suicide Prevention Program". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
  4. ^ "Adam Savage, Co-Host". The Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 2008-09-13. Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  5. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2012-01-08.