We Watch the World 24/7
Stanley Roper posted in the group 1989
Billy Joel ~ We Didn’t Start The Fire
1989 Extended Meow Mix
The rapid fire lyrics of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” reminded me of that 70’s pop hit by Reunion “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me) from 1974 was the history of music, Billy’s was the history of the world.
Billy relates that he loves history as much as his music. “I think history is more than just dates and politicians and generals and Presidents. I think a lot of it is popular culture, athletics, fashion. There is a lot more to history than just dates and names.”
He was inspired to write this song as he contemplated being 40 and had a discussion with a 20 year old who was feeling depressed about the world situation, AIDS, pollution and the 1989 situation with Red China. The young man then said to Billy, “You grew up in the 50’s and nothing happened in the 50’s”.
Now this built a fire under his talent and he started envisioning flashes of newspaper headlines of major historical events throughout his life and started writing everything down in chronological order, never thinking it would be a song. A quick review of these events in his encyclopedias verified his recollection of the events. He then remembered an unfinished song he had written, “Jolene” and used the music to complete the song.
“what I wanted to do, lyrically was sum up at the end of each of these years of names and faces and say ‘Hey we didn’t this mess, we certainly tried our best to make it better. It’s not something we started and it’s probalby not something we’re going to be able to finish. For the foreseeable future, this kind of craziness is going to go on and on. That’s how life is.” When he finished the song, he did not see it as a hit.
The first recording did not have the kick he wanted and working with producer Mick Jones took a rock and roll approach to keep the lyrics from seeming too pseudo-intellectual and this new burst of energy had him considering the song a possible single.
His rock and roll history lesson hit #1 and stayed there for two weeks. I found the music stems for this one and thought it was very timely for the craziness that seems to be consuming the world now. We are living the product of everything that came before us and don’t let it get you too down, change what you can and try your best to do it. The fire has always been burning and we are still trying to fight it.