We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel – 1989
This song came out at a time when I was really finding my way with my musical tastes and preferences. I was familiar with some of Billy Joel’s work, but he was someone I thought of as belonging to my parents’ generation. We Didn’t Start the Fire was what really put him on the map for me.
This is certainly a unique song with a unique concept, and it became one of Joel’s most popular singles. The lyrical history lesson – which is presented almost exclusively as a series of names, places, and events – takes us from his birth year of 1949 to 1989, the year of the song’s release. The staccato rhythm of the verses shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. It’s deceptively clever and well put together.
We Didn’t Start the Fire is a song that I have long hoped would be given an update. It would be simple (from a lyrical standpoint) to record a second iteration, where all the content described is from the last thirty years instead of the preceding forty… but apparently ol’ Billy is not too keen on the idea.