Skip to content

We didn’t start the fire …

The news from Afghanistan this week has me angry, sad, frustrated. I’ve always believed that when Osama bin Laden escaped that country, we should have left too. So now I seethe and grieve and shake my head, and one song keeps running through my mind: Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Last night I was looking for the video and lyrics, just to refresh my memory, and was surprised to find many people, obviously younger than I, have asked what the song means. Really? More surprising, there are actual courses and classes based on the song — what it means, what it talks about, etc.

I’ve always thought it obvious what the song was about and that anybody halfway listening would know. But apparently the historic references are lost on many of today’s young people. (The song was released in 1989.)

According to Wikipedia:

Joel conceived the idea for the song when he had just turned 40. He was in a recording studio and met a 21-year-old friend of Sean Lennon who said “It’s a terrible time to be 21!” Joel replied to him, “Yeah, I remember when I was 21 – I thought it was an awful time and we had Vietnam, and y’know, drug problems, and civil rights problems and everything seemed to be awful.” The friend replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it’s different for you. You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties.”

In the song, Joel reels off all the notable things that had happened in his lifetime of 40 years. It was roughly my lifetime too, so I never thought to ask, “What does it mean?” I thought it was obvious. Besides, then and now, the chorus tells it all:

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
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on

6 Comments »

  1. Just the past few days I’ve been listening to this song on my walks, and having a think about… well, all the things. Then I found you and this post. Funny how things click sometimes, hey?

Now that I've had my say ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: