Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thinking About Lyrics

It's not a surprise that I love Billy Joel's music. His song, "We Didn't Start the Fire" was one of my Musical Monday choices last year, and I think it's probably my favorite song. On June 21, 2008, my husband, Nicole and I saw him perform at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater. When he performed "We Didn't Start the Fire," he played the guitar. I thought I was going to wet myself with glee. To see him on stage was something that can't ever be topped, because he's someone I thought I'd never get to see perform.



1940:
Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie 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:
Josef 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

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, Zhou Enlai, Bridge On The River Kwai

1958:
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkweather homicide, 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 Beatlemania
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

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

1960’s:
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

1970’s:
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

1980’s:
Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

1980’s:
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore 

Lemme just tell ya, it was almost orgasmic to be there to hear this song. Head tipped back, screaming out these two lines with everyone else in a packed, shoulder to shoulder show. We had good seats about 10 rows from the stage. I would have paid anything to be there.

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...

"We Didn't Start the Fire" is a song by Billy Joel that alludes to headline events from March 1949 (Joel was born on May 9 of that year) to 1989, when the song was released on his album Storm Front. The song was a number-one hit in the US, and often parodied since.

"The song and music video have been interpreted as a rebuttal to criticism of Joel's Baby Boomer generation. The song's title and refrain mention "the fire", an allusion to conflict and societal turmoil; Joel asserts that these can't be blamed on his generation alone, as "the fire" has been "always burning since the world's been turning"...

"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."

I heard him say in an interview once that he wrote it with the idea it would be better as a rap. As a white middle aged guy, he didn't think he could do it justice because he's not a rapper. He wanted someone younger to perform it but no one wanted it.

I think I can appreciate the song because it reminds me that everything we're living through right now, over the course of our lives, is historical, even if we missed out on the Beatles and Marilyn.



But with everything that's been happening in the world since the song "ended" in the 1980's, it made me wonder...what kind of things might Billy Joel had written about if he continued with more, new lyrics. This is my take on "We Didn't Start the Fire." Just keep in mind, I'm not a professional writer and I really was trying to keep the beat of Billy's original lyrics.

1990s:
Ma Theresa dies, Bill Clinton, Princess Di
Kuwait oil fields, Al Gore, the US in the Gulf War

2000:
Y2K, Elian, Al Gore, Hilary Clinton,
Terrorists, USS Cole’s attacked in Yemen

2001:
Earnhardt, G8, Dubya is sworn in, Robert Hanssen,
Stem cells, 9/11 attacks, Richard Reid, anthrax

2002:
Daniel Pearl, Peggy Lee, Homeland Security
D.C. snipers not of sound mind, No Child Left Behind

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

2003:
Iraq War has begun, Saddam goes on the run
War starts in Darfur, Abu Ghraib can’t be ignored

2004:
Facebook, Same sex marriage gets a look,
Oldsmobile can’t suffice, Passion of the Christ

2005:
Vatican replaces Pope John Paul, Dubya again comes to call,
Hurricane Katrina, nukes in North Korea

2006:
Shelley Winters’ heart attack, Slobodan’s a political hack,
Hussein can’t get shot and gets the hangman’s knot.

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

2007:
Earthquake in Peru, Harry Potter is bid adieu
Zasyadko can’t get the all clear, Putin is man of the year

2008:
Obama becomes 44, what does Palin stand for?
Phelps brings home the gold, Fidel’s brother takes hold

2009:
Great recession, layoffs, can’t pay it, Farrah Fawcett
Michael Jackson, swine flu, foreclosures are past due

2010:
Deepwater Horizon leaves Gulf people sore,
Late night talk show war, 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...

And just in case you need a Billy Joel in Virginia Beach fix:











Chainsaw was a part of the Virginia Beach show, but there weren't any videos of that on You Tube, so this video is from April 13, 2007 in Cleveland.

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