We were driving down the interstate the other day, singing along to Billy Joel on my car stereo. I don’t sing well – AT ALL – but it doesn’t stop me from belting out my faves whenever I have the chance. “Find some noise-cancelling headphones if ya don’t like it!” is what I tell my kids when they hear me crooning and give me the look that begs me to keep my musical appreciation to myself.
Usually our musical conversations enlighten them and I love giving them the scoop on everything from Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper to 8-tracks and marching bands. It also assures them that I’m either rockin’ smart, or certifiably crazy.
Some days it’s just a coin toss.
So, anyhoo, as I’m belting out the fast-paced lyrics to We Didn’t Start the Fire and playing that video in my head of me and Dom singing this song at the top of our lungs in the back of Mama Mia’s (who remembers those days?!) it occurred to me that I not only wanted to share with my kids all the memories I have of this music, but also what the music means.
This one just happens to be a history book set to a drum beat.
So this is my version of homeschooling: I told the kids that we are going to dissect this song. Item by item, I want them to research the topics mentioned and learn about why they are/were known by name and what historical significance they held that has earned them a spot in the lyrics of this tune. I plan to chime in heavily with my personal memories of these events. But I have a feeling I’ll learn almost as much as they will.
Excuse me, please, while I crank the volume up to 10. 😉
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
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, 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, Krushchev,
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez
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,
U-2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy,
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo,
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,
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say?
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
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on
Makes ya wanna go buy a Billy Joel CD, doesn’t it? 😉
We Didn’t Start the Fire, from the album Storm Front by Billy Joel. Lyrics obtained and copied from MetroLyrics.com