A Great History Lesson…

One of my all time favorite songs…and a great history lesson for people of all ages.

Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was the subject of a final exam when I was in school. The test: to explain each historical reference in the song (in one sentence each). Good thing I know my history 🙂

Check out the video below…

For your reference, here are the lyrics:

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
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, Chou En-Lai, 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…

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7 Comments on “A Great History Lesson…”

  1. Honeydog Says:

    An amazing culmination of “People, Places and Things” in one Record. It always blew my Mind that Billy could remember the “all-over-the-place order”, IN perfect order, and at such a fast pace, when performing it. Bob Dylan was another one who was good at that in several of his Songs. “Fire” is one of those Songs where nothing you could possibly say about what it’s about is left out. ALOT of Thought, and a Brilliant Summarization.

  2. Ina Says:

    KKK and Martin Luther King, somehow I miss them in the song. 🙂

  3. zelda Says:

    That photo evokes terrible shocking memories……don’t want to see it.

  4. kreuzer33 Says:

    The photo in the background? Yeah…lots of historical memories in the song, both good and bad. The video is mostly showing a family moving forward from the 50’s to the 80’s. The lyrics (included below the video) tell a great story of world history.

  5. zelda Says:

    I remember that photo on the evening news as we were about to sit down to dinner. Back then those kind of images were a first for Americans. We were in shock.

    Yes…..the song gives an interesting view of history.


  6. Great post, John! Music says alot and is an exercise in memory. Enjoy:

  7. OneOp Says:

    What the hell was that? LOL


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