Tunes Tuesday: We Didn’t Start the Fire

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I received a lot of encouragement and support from last week’s Tunes Tuesday, so I think we will keep the series going. Again, this series will be exploring lyrics that tell a story as well as any poetry ever could.

This week, I have chosen the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, by Billy Joel. Each Billy Joel song tells a different story, so I am sure this will not be my last Billy Joel song.

But the lyrics to this particular song have always made me think the man is an absolute genius with words – the song provides a complete history lesson in under five minutes!

Copyright JC Politi Photography

What do you think? Did Bill Joel miss any important events or people during the time-span covered by this song?

Your challenge this week, should you choose to participate, is to come up with a few lines to update the song, since it stops in the year 1989. Don’t worry if it doesn’t rhyme, unless, of course you want it to! Just think about what you would include in a two minute song to encapsulate the past 20 years.

My best attempt at a start:

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter feed
Home foreclosures, Corporate greed…

We Didn’t Start the Fire
Billy Joel

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

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

Rosenberg, 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 Prokofiov,
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, Khrushchev,
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, Zhou Enlai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles 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 Beatle mania,
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex,
J.F.K. 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
It will 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

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire…

This is a great video that shows the song with the year identified – again, a great history lesson:

Thanks so much for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts.

36 Comments

Filed under History, Music, Uncategorized

36 responses to “Tunes Tuesday: We Didn’t Start the Fire

  1. Great stuff. You are right: the man’s a genius. Some of our brightest people are writing songs (or were) and writing funny commercials on TV! But my favorite Joel song has to be “Piano Man.”

    • Thanks! I love Billy Joel and think some of his more obscure songs are some of his most brilliant story-telling. Now I KNOW you have some thoughts of what to throw into an update of the song for the 90s and the 2000s…

  2. I play a video version that I use as an entry activity with my seniors with the idea that their generation will continue the fire. We create a list of events for a “part two.” There are updated versions of the song on Youtube by different people. Good spotlight choice.

    • REALLY? That is so cool! You must be the cool teacher in your school…or am I showing my age by thinking that Billy Joel is cool? 😉 I haven’t seen any of the updates – I’ll have to check that out. Thanks so much for reading and for the comment!

  3. Terrific choice (and I love the way you’re using the ‘upload’ feature!!)…

  4. love that song and couldn’t help but sing the lyrics

  5. We love this song–it’s on our Best of Billy Joel CD. We wondered if he had been influenced by a 70s song, Life is a Rock, only broadening it to include world events and history.
    ► 3:34► 3:34
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEj9I4bHea8

    • That is so cool!!! I would love to know how he did it. My husband and I were discussing this over breakfast – did he look for words that rhymed or look for the names and then figured out how to make them rhyme? And did he leave anything out just because it didn’t ryhme? I would love to know more abot his writing process. Thanks so much for sending along this fun video – it brightened my afternoon!

  6. Tech bubble, housing bubble, green market stumble
    Americans in Afganistan, still trouble in Iran
    Clooney, Sunni, Abu Dahbi
    9/11 pray to heaven, count all deadly sins of seven.

    My try. Love this song.

  7. Love this song, thanks for reminding me of it!

  8. I just deleted old fart’s comment by mistake! Here it is: Great song choice. I also like Katie’s new lyrics as well. Hugh, I love “Piano Man,” but my favorites are “I’ve Loved These Days” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” Interesting that many of his songs are reflective of past deeds or regrets. Well done, Jennifer. I like your taste in artists and songs.

    $y response: I love those songs, but I have a few more obscure one’s I'”l porbably post. Stay tuned:-)

  9. Pingback: Tunes Tuesday: You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one | newsofthetimes

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