NEW YORK – He's famous for "a bottle of white, a bottle of red," and pop star Billy Joel is now singing that he's "an alcohol abuser" -- but insists he's no alcoholic.
"I can abuse alcohol. If the demons get me, I'll go on a bender," the Piano Man tells Katie Couric in an interview on Tuesday's Dateline.
"It's happened to me before. That's why I went into rehab. I was on a binge. I was on a bender. And I said: 'This is stupid. I gotta stop.' And I went and I did stop."
Last year, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter escaped serious injury in a June 12 car crash in East Hampton. A cop at the time was quoted as saying, "There were no signs of alcohol."
Days later, Joel checked into Silver Hill, a chic Connecticut rehab clinic.
"Everybody can abuse alcohol," he tells Couric. "Anybody can drink too much. But I've cooled that out."
Couric asks Joel if he considers himself an alcoholic.
"No. I'm an alcohol abuser," he replies. "If you drink too much, no matter who you are, whether you're an alcoholic or not, you're gonna do harm to yourself."
On Jan. 25, Joel totaled his Mercedes-Benz S600 when he smacked into a tree while driving alone in Sag Harbor -- his second car crash in seven months.
Because there was no smell of alcohol on him or in the car, cops did not give him a Breathalyzer test.
Joel's shaken ex-wife, Christie Brinkley, snapped pictures of the crushed car and went public to say their daughter, Alexa Ray, 17, had been riding in her dad's car hours before he totaled it.
"The seat Alexa was sitting in only hours before the latest crash was completely decimated," the supermodel said in a statement. "I'm worried about Billy, but, like any mother would be, I am alarmed and concerned about my child's safety by this frightening pattern of events."
Joel tells Couric he and Brinkley spoke about her concerns, "And I said, number one, it wasn't the seat Alexa was sitting in. She was sitting in a different seat.
"I'd been driving my daughter that afternoon. There was no alcohol involved with that. I would never put my daughter in any kind of danger like that. Or myself. And that's really the truth of the matter."