There are many songs that have been written about historical events. Also many
songs that have historical meaning. One of these songs is “We didn’t start the fire” by
Billy Joel. The song itself is a list of events that Joel felt his generation was not
responsible for. A lot of the references are to the Cold War between the United States
and Russia, a problem his generation inherited. In the liner notes of ‘Piano Man: The
Very Best of Billy Joel’, Joel explains that he wrote this song after a conversation with
John Lennon's son Sean.
Some of the events, names and terms used in the song are explained as follows.
Red china is a nickname for china when it got taken over by communists. South Pacific
was a highly popular broadway musical and hit movie. The Rosenbergs were a husband
and wife who were arrested and executed for selling secrets of the atomic bomb to the
Soviet Union. The vaccine to the dreaded disease polio which was discovered by Jonas
Salk and distributed to the world. Santayana good-bye was about the famous
philosopher George Santayana who died in 1952. Budapest is about the anti-communist
riots that took place in Budapest.
I chose this song because it is a summary of cultural history of the twentieth
century crammed into 4 minutes. Also its a pretty catchy song and one of my favorite Billy
Joel songs. it lists numerous events, people and other terms of the twentieth century.