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Boomer Anthem: “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (With an Update)

“Unlike most of Joel’s songs, the lyrics were written before the melody, owing to the somewhat unusual style of the song. The song was a huge commercial success and was Joel’s third Billboard No. 1 hit. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

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

UPDATE: 1990 to 2012 Edition:
— La Wik

LYRICS AND INTERVIEW WITH JOEL FOLLOW:

Noriega, Berlin Wall, “New Kids”, Gulf War;
Russian schism – communism, Germans reunite.
Nelson in South Africa, Channel Tunnel, Kasparov,
Ice Caps, Poll Tax, Hubble in the sky.

Rodney King, CDs, Bombing over Lockerbie,
Grunge Hits – Nevermind, Pee-Wee Herman out of line.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Oklahoma City hell,
Farrakhan, “Million-Strong”, Marching on the front lawn.

“Four More, Clinton-Gore”, Lewinsky then Tupac Shakur,
Cloned Sheep, Impeached, OJ goes free,
Harry Potter, Princess Di, Matthew Shepard hate crime;
Y2K, Columbine, “Party Like it’s ’99”.

Hanging chads, Marc Rich, 9/11 Terrorists
Enron undone, Sniper scare in Washington.
Furby, Ozzy, Eminem,
Weapons in Iraq again; Columbia, “Governator”, Martha Stewart jail time.

Goldman-Sachs, “Brokeback”, “Passion”, Google, Arafat.
Hurricanes, Levees break, Children getting overweight.
Hussein gets hanged, Terri Schiavo “End the Pain”,
David Hicks, Dixie Chicks, Rockets in the Gaza Strip. (uh oh uh oh)

Businesses ‘too big to fail’, Phelps, Bolt, “Save the Whales”,
Bailouts, California Proposition 8.
Barack Obama “Yes We Can”, H1N1 back again;
King of Pop – world frowns; Housing bubble breakdown.

Unemployment on the rise, Civil Unions legalized,
Aid flotillas taken in, “Citizens United” win;
Osama and Obamacare, Fighting in Tahrir Square,
Haiti Quake, Gulf spill, Tea Party Standstills.
Camping, Manning, WikiLeaks,
Occupy Wall Street! Linda K, Pepper Spray, What else do I have to say?

Medicare, Ceiling hit, Royal Wedding, defecits,
Kim Jong, Jobs gone, rise of the smartphone.
Ancient Mayan prophecy, irradiation in the sea,
speculation, gas price, outsourced, workers rights.

SOPA, PIPA censorship, Schettino, Greek debt,
“Stand Your Ground”, Trayvon, Ron Paul, Mitt Rom.
Banning speech in public halls and corporate money funding laws,
Apple and the patent wars, I can’t take it anymore!

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

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
Maciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

Original Lyrics

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

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkwether, 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, Eichman, 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
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

And now, Billy Joel explains it all…..

Billy Joel – Q&A: Tell Us About “We Didn’t Start The Fire”? (Oxford 1994)

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper October 8, 2018, 11:35 AM

    Thick, stubby, broken up diesel mechanic fingers.