♫ We Didn’t Start The Fire ♫

This Billy Joel song was mentioned twice in comments recently, by Keith and Ellen.  The lyrics are a stream of consciousness list of more than 100 events that Joel felt his generation was not responsible for. Many of the references are to the Cold War (U.S. vs. Russia), a problem his generation inherited.

we-didnt-start-fire

Joel says he got the idea for the song after a conversation with his friend, Sean Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon, on the event of Sean’s 21st birthday, .  The conversation went like this:

Lennon: It’s a terrible time to be 21!

Joel: Yeah, I remember when I was 21 – I thought it was an awful time and we had Vietnam, and y’know, drug problems, and civil rights problems and everything seemed to be awful.

Lennon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it’s different for you. You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties.

Joel: Wait a minute, didn’t you hear of the Korean War or the Suez Canal Crisis?

According to Joel …

I had turned forty. It was 1989 and I said “Okay, what’s happened in my life?” I wrote down the year 1949. Okay, Harry Truman was president. Popular singer of the day, Doris Day. China went Communist. Another popular singer, Johnnie Ray. Big Broadway show, South Pacific. Journalist, Walter Winchell. Athlete, Joe DiMaggio. Then I went on to 1950 … It’s one of the worst melodies I’ve ever written. I kind of like the lyric though.

Musically, the song does leave something to be desired.  Blender magazine rated this the 41st worst song ever in its 2004 article “Run for Your Life! It’s the 50 Worst Songs Ever!” Comparing it to “a term paper scribbled the night before it’s due.”

But the song carries a message, and that overrides the flaws in the composition, at least for me it does.

My thanks to Keith and Ellen for reminding me of this song and its message …

We Didn’t Start the Fire
Billy Joel

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Lebanon, Charlse de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Songwriters: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

32 thoughts on “♫ We Didn’t Start The Fire ♫

  1. I think this is a great song – it’s on my playlist that I listen to at work, in the car, and running/walking. And when I create my “Happy Place Playlist” (coming soon) it will definitely be there (although, perhaps not really a “happy place” kind of song…)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That should have read “awareness about the environment.” But even awareness did not help. Almost 60 years after “Silent Spring” was published we are in an even worse position now… Ms Carson woke some of us up, but since there was no money to be made, so they thought, most chose to ignore it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep … and even today, surrounded by the evidence that Ms. Carson was right, they continue to ignore it. I’m a lot angry over these fat-ass money-grubbing, arrogant, ignorant fools taking away the life of every living thing on this earth. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

      Like

  3. This song spoke for a whole generation. And we did try to fight it. We even had a few successes, esp the environment. But ultimately, so far, we lost. Trump, who is also part of our generation, failed at being a hippie, so pretended to be a success at everything anti-hippie. He succeeded at pretending…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    One of my favorite songs ever .. so educational!! … ‘The lyrics are a stream of consciousness list of more than 100 events that Joel felt his generation was not responsible for. Many of the references are to the Cold War (U.S. vs. Russia), a problem his generation inherited.’

    Liked by 1 person

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