This is not a blog about Billy Joel…

…well, not really. I recently heard “We Didn’t Start the Fire” on the radio and it filled me with a warmth that brought me straight back to my eight-year-old days of eating too many Oreos, wearing royal purple sweat suits (hey, it was still the 80s, okay?) and, yes, being a radio monger. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like this song, and if you don’t, do me a favor and don’t tell me, okay?

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a genius piece of musical history. This song premiered in the days where you wouldn’t run to a computer and download it. Oh no, you had to sit, cassette tape in hand, and wait for the Top Eight at Eight on your local radio station. Along with misheard lyrics, I will admit my sin. As a little girl, I was always puzzled by the supposed lyrics, “Though we did ignite it but we tried to fight it.” Later, I thought he said, “Though we didn’t mind it but we tried to fight it.” Will the real lyrics put their matchbooks away and please stand up? “No we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.” Yes, I know my versions don’t really make sense, especially not the first one, but hey, I was young and boppin’ my head to the tune, unaware of how politically loaded the number was as well.

These days, thinking about some of my 80s favorites, this one burns up the list. (Too much? Oh, I’m sorry.) I think also on a silly goal I have of something to do before I die. I want to memorize and recite/perform R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine).” Only, no, Michael Stipe, it isn’t “time I had some time alone.” I’ve had plenty of that, though I do congratulate you on a unique background lyric toward the latter half of the song. Anyway, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” reminds me of “It’s the End…” because of the listing technique. Either of these songs could’ve totally flopped in a recitation, but these musical geniuses have added them to our top 100 favorites because of their ability to put them to driving and memorable beats, as well as picking out hook words and personalities to catch and keep our attention.

Take a look at the video and lyrics. Tell me what you think! A piece of genius whose flames should be fanned for generations to come? What are some other excellent songs you know that reference fire? Share them here!

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

“We Didn’t Start The Fire” by 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

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

Josef 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, 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 Beatlemania
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

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2 thoughts on “This is not a blog about Billy Joel…

  1. Walk Through Fire/Bad Company
    Rock of Ages/Def Leppard
    Ring of Fire/Def Leppard
    Inside the Fire/Disturbed

    Should I go on? I love your blog. Brian Fanelli suggested it to me 🙂

  2. Thanks, Patricia! It’s good to hear. And I love Def Leppard. Hysteria was the first CD I ever owned (1992.) 🙂

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