SfC Home > History >

 

Explanation of the lyrics of the song "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Bill Joel and how it relates to the historical events and people between 1949 and 1989. Key words: recent history, lyrics, facts, personalities, Ron Kurtus, School for Champions. Copyright © Restrictions

"We Didn't Start the Fire" (Lyrics) History Summary from 1949-1989

by Ron Kurtus (revised 27 May 2013)

In 1989, singer Billy Joel released a popular song entitled We Didn't Start the Fire. The song simply lists historical personalities and events from 1949 until 1989. Just hearing the mention of them brought back memories of the times to many listeners. The lyrics of the song proved to be a good summary of the history of that era.

Questions you may have about this are:

This lesson will answer those questions.


Also see: "We Didn't Start the Fire" (Facts) for an explanation of each item.

Poetry of lyrics

It is enlightening to read the lyrics to see how Billy Joel rhymed the historical events. I broke up the lyrics to make it easier to get the feeling of the song.

The chorus of the song is interesting in saying that "we (that generation) didn't light the fire (cause the problems), but we tried to fight them." What he is saying that the generation of young people in each era were not responsible for the problems and culture of the times. But many tried to rebel or even fought to solve the problems.

Lyrics

(Copyright 1989 Sony Music Entertainment)

Note: The dates at the left link to the facts page to give details about the listed events.

1949

Harry Truman, Doris Day,
Red China, Johnny Ray

South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

1950

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon,
Studebaker, Television

North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

1951

Rosenbergs, H-bomb,
Sugar Ray, Panmunjom

Brando, The King and I,
And The Catcher In The Rye

1952

Eisenhower, Vaccine,
England's got a new queen

Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

(chorus)

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

1953

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov,
Nasser and Prokofiev,

Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

1954

Roy Cohn,
Juan Peron,
Toscanini, Dacron

Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

1955

Einstein, James Dean,
Brooklyn's got a winning team

Davy Crockett, Peter Pan,
Elvis Presley, Disneyland

1956

Bardot, Budapest
Alabama, Khrushchev

Princess Grace,
Peyton Place

Trouble in the Suez

(chorus)

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.

1957

Little Rock, Pasternak,
Mickey Mantle, Kerouac

Sputnik, Chou En-Lai,
Bridge On The River Kwai

1958

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle,
California baseball

Starkweather homicides,
Children of Thalidomide

1959

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur,
Space Monkey, Mafia

Hula Hoops, Castro,
Edsel is a no-go

1960

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

1961

Hemingway, Eichmann,
Stranger in a Strange Land

Dylan,
Berlin,
Bay of Pigs invasion

1962

Lawrence of Arabia,
British Beatle-mania

Ole Miss, John Glenn,
Liston beats Patterson

1963

Pope Paul, Malcolm X,
British Politician sex

J.F.K. blown away,
What else do I have to say?

(chorus)

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.

1964-1989

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

(chorus)

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.

Historical events

The events are generally grouped according to date until towards the end of the song.

After you finished the Mini-Quiz, see the next page: "We Didn't Start the Fire" (Facts) for an explanation of each item.

Summary

Sometimes songs or poems can lead you to the history of the times. The song "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel provided a good listing of important historical events and personalities between 1949 and 1989.


Songs can tell about history of the times


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

The following resources provide information on this subject:

MP3 audio

We Didn't Start The Fire - MP3 (Remastered by Columbia Records 2014) $0.99

Websites

Billy Joel "Storm Front" album - From Billy Joel site

History Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Billy Joel

Top-rated books on History


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


Share

Click on a button to bookmark or share this page through Twitter, Facebook, email, or other services:

 

Students and researchers

The Web address of this page is:
www.school-for-champions.com/history/start_fire_lyrics.htm

Please include it as a link on your website or as a reference in your report, document, or thesis.


Where are you now?

School for Champions

History topics

"We Didn't Start the Fire" (Lyrics) History Summary from 1949-1989

"We Didn't Start the Fire" (Facts)



History topics

1800s

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

Also see



Let's make the world a better place

Be the best that you can be.

Use your knowledge and skills to help others succeed.

Don't be wasteful; protect our environment.

You CAN influence the world.





Live Your Life as a Champion:

Take care of your health

Seek knowledge and gain skills

Do excellent work

Be valuable to others

Have utmost character

Be a Champion!



The School for Champions helps you become the type of person who can be called a Champion.