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Billy Joel and History Lessons

My 6th grade year was a pretty cool year. I was now a middle schooler (so grown up!), boys liked me (scary!!) and my love of music grew by leaps and bounds.

My teacher, Mrs. Dauble, was not only a music fan she had great taste. That year she introduced us to a song you might have heard of, “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.

Now if you haven’t heard of it, don’t mind me while I go cry because that means I’m old, but Billy Joel released this song late in 1989. It’s a 4:49 song that alludes to over 100 headline events between 1949 (the year of his birth) and 1989. It was a US #1 hit and nominated for the Grammy Award Record of the Year.

For several weeks as we piece by piece broke down what each name in his song signified I learned my greatest history lesson, history repeats itself.

We may adapt and evolve in some ways but we still struggle and fight. Mankind cannot seem to break its patterns of destruction. We take leaps forward and then 1000 steps backwards. Why? Because we get in our own way over and over again.

Look at what is happening right now? George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin. This is unacceptable and beyond reprehensible but riots don’t solve it either. I understand the anger, the frustration and even the hate but where does it get any of us?

If we, as a nation, can’t find a way to break the cycles of violence and hate that are raging, our nation will fall from within.

We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel

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
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, Charlse 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 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
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
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

Lyrics from Lyricfind

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