Billy Joel has joined occasional tour mate Elton John in paying tribute to Bob Birch, John's bass player and a Sterling Heights native who was found dead on Wednesday (August 15) of an apparent suicide. Joel posted a note on his official web site saying that "I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bob Birch. He was a brilliant musician, a true professional and a wonderful man to work with. After 16 years on the road together I considered him to be a good friend. I and all the people in my touring organization will miss him very much." Birch occasionally joined Joel and his band during jams on his Face To Face tours with John. Funeral and memorial plans are pending for Birch, a Wayne State University music school graduate, while John is slated to begin a North American tour on September 7.