We Didn't Start The Fire

Billy Joel

Copyright 1996, Leilani Gnall
Edited and Published 1997, Paul O'Brien

Billy Joel (reportedly) wrote this song because he overheard a child say that he felt sorry for "older people" like Billy Joel because no "history" happened in their lifetime, that NOW (1989) was going to be the world's most historical time period. The comment got to Billy Joel so much that he sat down and wrote this to prove that his lifetime has been FULL of history.

1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1969 1970 1980


Harry Truman Well loved 33rd President of the United States (1945-1953). Made the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima & Nagasaki. 'Give 'em hell Harry!' The 1949 Inauguration was the first to be nationally televised, and was estimated to have been viewed by 10 million Americans.
Doris Day Popular singer/actress and later, star of the Doris Day Show (1968-1973). Most famous movies: The Pajama Game ('57) and Pillow Talk ('59).
Red China 'The Red Troops,' Communists take over mainland China. Nationalists establish themselves in Taiwan.
Johnnie Ray Singer who cried when he sang. Hits: Cry and The Little Cloud that Cried. Johnnie Ray was born on January 10, 1927 in Dallas, Oregon. He was partially deaf since childhood and began wearing a hearing aid at age 14. In 1951 singer LaVern Baker and her manager Al Green helped him with his music. He signed a contract with Okeh in 1949.
South Pacific Broadway musical first produced on April 7th of this year
Walter Winchell America's first modern gossip columnist known for his aggressive style and tremendous use of slang. America tuned into him on the radio.
Joe DiMaggio 'Joltin' Joe,' 'The Yankee Clipper' was an outfielder for the New York Yankees (1936-1951) and has the longest hitting streak in the Major Leagues. In 1949, an inflamed heel kept him sidelined for 65 games. When he returned to the lineup, his home run helped the Yankees beat Boston 5-4, and he went on to bat .500 in their three-game series. It was as if he'd never been gone. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955 and married Marilyn Monroe in '54.


Joe McCarthy The Republican senator who led 'Witch Hunts' against the communists in America. He also started the dreaded 'Black listing.'
Richard Nixon Member of the US Senate and later President. Investigated domestic communism during this period.
Studebaker Clement, Henry, and John Studebaker, The downfall of this eccentric auto company came when their sports car did not catch on as well as the new corvette.
Television The 'Boob Tube' was introduced and became widely popular throughout the world.
North Korea Democratic peoples republic occupied by U.S.S.R. They invaded...
South Korea On June 25, 1950 and remained occupied until July 27, 1953. The United States supported South Korea. Start of the 'Cold War'?
Marilyn Monroe Norma Jean-Baker -- Actress and Pin-up girl. In the movie 'Love Happy', United Artists, April 1950 staring: Marx Brothers, Ilona Massey, Eric Blore, Vera-Ellen, Raymond Burr, Marilyn Monroe had a 3 minute walk-on scene with Groucho Marx. She married Joe DiMaggio in 1954 and died of a drug overdose in 1956. Popular Movies: Some Like It Hot and Bus Stop


Rosenbergs Ethel-Greenglass Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg were listed as communists and were convicted of giving secrets to the U.S.S.R. Executed, they were spies, they were traitors.
H-Bomb First tested in 1951. This weapon was more powerful than the destrctive Atomic bomb. Researched by Edward Teller as a response to the fear of communism after Russia duplicated the A-bomb.
Sugar Ray Five time middle weight champion (1951-1960). Welter weight champion (1946-1951)
Panmunjom City in South Korea where the cease fire negotiations took place. Talks started in 1951 and the truce was signed in 1953 ending the Korean War.
Brando Marlon Brando Jr. The 'Buddy' actor. Won Oscars for: On the Water Front (1954) and The Godfather (1972)
The King and I Popular musical and book by Oscar Hammerstein based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margret Landon. About King Mongkut of Thailand and the social life and customs therein.
and The Catcher in the Rye Well known book by J.D. Salinger.


Eisenhower 'Ike' David Dwight Eisenhower. Allied European military leader and 34th U.S. president (1953-1961).
Vaccine Jonas Salk, on March 11, 1952, provides the body with lasting defensive powers against 3 types of polio viruses.
England's got a new Queen Queen Elizabeth II starts her reign, she is 27 years old.
Marciano Rocky Marciano, Boxer and Actor. Became the heavyweight champion of the world when he defeated Jersey Joe Walcott on September 23, 1952. Undefeated Heavyweight Champion (1952-1956). Died in a plane crash in 1969.
Liberace George J. Liberace. Conductor, violinist and pianist born Wladziu Valentino (1919-1987). Rose to stardom in the fifties and went on to become the highest paid entertainer during the sixties and seventies. Known for his elaborate costumes, flashy piano styles and his token candelabra. Most well known piece: Mack the Knife
Santayana good-bye George Santayana, (1863-1952), American philosopher, poet, and novelist, whose wide-ranging philosophical speculation was expressed in a style of great literary distinction. died September 26, 1952., Memorable quote: 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'
CHORUS 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 Dictator of Russia (1929-1953), successor of Lenin. Instituted Socialism throught the use of force. Died, March 5, 1953.
Malenkov Georgi Malenkov was a close associate of Joseph Stalin he, became Prime Minister of Russia after Stalin's death and remained in his position until 1955.
Nasser Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egyptian President (1953-1970). He led the disposal of King Farouk in 1952.
and Russian Composer who died in 1953 after putting together Peter and the Wolf.
Rockefeller John D. Rockefeller. Most well known of the wealthy Rockefeller family. Founded Chevron Oil company. Nelson Aldridge Rockefeller was Governor of New York from 1958 to 1974.
Campanella Roy Campanella was a black baseball catcher for Brooklyn from 1948 to 1957. He led the NL in RBI's in 1953 and held the MVP. He was paralyzed in a car accident in 1958 and was entered in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Communist Bloc The Communist Bloc refers to the countries that comprised the 'enemy' during the Cold War.


Roy Cohn Lawyer and Chief counsel to Senator McCarthy during his 'Witch Hunt' trials.
Juan Peron Dictator of Argentina, died in 1974.
Toscanini Arturo Toscanini, child prodigy. One of the great Orchestra conductors who performed in New York and Italy. He retired in 1954 at the are of 87.
Dacron The Tradename for Polyester fiber rope. The beginning of polyester clothing.
Dien Bien Phu Falls Vietnam swamp land, location of the Frenc fortress that was defeated in 1954.
Rock Around The Clock Number 1 song by Bill Haley and the Comets. Considered the beginning of Rock n' Roll.


Einstein It doesn't take a genius to know Albert Einstein. Physicist and mathametician who penned the Theory of Relativity and did substantial work on the creation of the Atomic Bomb. He won the Nobel Prize before passing away on April 18, 1955.
James Dean Actor and teen heartthrob. Became an icon for American teenage boys after a career in films which was tragically cut short when he was killed in a car accident on Sept. 30, 1955. Films: Rebel Without A Cause (1955), East of Eden (1955), and Giant (1955) filmed before his death.
Brooklyn's got a winning team The Brooklyn Dodgers wins the World Series 4 games to 3 against the New York Yankees.
Davy Crockett Frontiersman under President Andrew Jackson who died at the Alamo in 1936. Because of Walt Disney's now weekly show, Davy Crockett becomes the newest fad among kids.
Peter Pan The Disney Feature Full Length Animated Movie hits theatres.
Elvis Presley Actor/Singer 'The King' of Rock n' Roll
Disneyland Walt Disney opens his first amusement park in Anaheim, California.


Bardot Bridget Bardot, French actress and sex symbol. Famous for marijuana and her long blonde disheveled hair.
Budapest Moved towards democracy in Hungary, armored tanks quickly put a stop to it.
Alabama Moved towards civil rights with the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks protested against discrimination.
Krushchev Nikita Krushchev, the Premier of Russia who built the Berlin Wall in '56. ' We will bury you!'
Princess Grace Grace Kelley. Actress who married Prince Ranier III of Monaco in '56. Movies: High Noon (1952)
Peyton Place First night time soap opera
Trouble in the Suez Egypt nationalizes the canal and refuses passage to Israel. War erupts and Irael, with the help of France and Great Britain occupy the Sinai Penninsula.


Little Rock Arkansas, troops are sent to a central high school to enforce racial integration.
Pasternak Boris Pasternak, russian creator of Dr. Zhivago. Forced to refuse the Nobel Prize for literature in '58.
Mickey Mantle 'The Commerce Comet.' NY Yankees outfielder (1951-58). Won the AL Triple Crown in '56 and held the record for 536 home runs. He was a 3 time MVP, including the '57 season, and was entered into the Hall of Fame in '74.
Kerouac Jack Kerouac, led the 'Beatnik' movement, authored On the Road in 1957. b. Oct 20, 1931
Sputnik The first artificial satellite, launched by the Russians on Oct 4, 1957. Sputnik means satellite in Russian.
Chou-En-Lai The premier of China sought to normalize relations between the PRC and the USA
Bridge on the River Kwai Won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor-Alec Guinness and Best (Adapted) Screenplay.


Lebanon President 'Ike' Eisenhower sent troops to Lebanon where 241 marines died.
Charles de Gaulle French army general who assumed leadership after WWII, he became the first president of the fifth republic (1959-1969).
California Baseball In 1958 (between the 1957 and 1958 seasons, at least) the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants (the baseball team) moved out west to California - Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively.
Starkweather Homicide The Starkweather Homicides - In January, Charlie Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Fugate, went on a 11 (we've also heard 'over 15') person killing spree over a span of a month and a half. The spree started with Fugate's parents and spread over the Midwest. He was executed in the electric chair. This frightening rebel twosome inspired a whole series of mainstream and not-so-mainstream movies like the 1974 Badlands by Terrence Malick, Wild At Heart by David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott's 1993 True Romance, Dominic Sena's 1993 Kalifornia, and Oliver Stone's 1994 Natural Born Killers.
Children of Thalidomide Thalidomide was given to women to help with birthing procedures and morning sickness. Children are consequently born with birth defects, typically abnormally short arms. Sometimes, no arms or legs at all.


Buddy Holly My man! Singer/songwriter of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Died in a plane crash with 2 other rock n' roll singers, including Ritchie Valens, on Feb 3, 1959. (See the American Pie page)
Ben Hur Nominated for 12Academy Awards. Won 11, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor-Charlton Heston and Best Supporting Actor-Hugh Griffith..
Space Monkey The first sentient being was sent into outer space, it was... a monkey.
Mafia Gangs, mobsters, you know like Capone. Don Vito Genovese jailed for narcotics peddling in 1959, he was turned in by Nelson Cantellops.
Hula hoops The Hula Hoop was invented and became the latest fad.
Castro Fidel Castro led a campaign to overthrow the Batista regime. The Communist leader took over in Cuba and became the Premier.
Edsel is a no-go The Edsel, a car too advanced for its time, people were not ready for it and it flopped.


U-2 A spy plane, then being flown by Gary Powers, was shot down. News of its existence ruined a summit meeting in Vienna between Kruchev and the American President, Eisenhower.
Syngman Rhee The President of South Korea (1948-1960) was forced from office for political abuses.
Payola One of the first big music scandals where record companies paid DJs to play certain songs as DJs were asking for money to play records. Allan Freed, a big time radio DJ from Ohio credited with coining the term 'Rock and Roll,' got caught up in it and it destroyed his career. The film American Hot Wax deals with both Allan and the payola issue.
Kennedy John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States (served 1961-1963). He was also the first Roman Catholic President.
Chubby Checker Rock n' Roll sensation who created the dance craze, 'The Twist.'
Psycho Famous Alfred Hitchcock movie. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. Remade in 1999.
Belgians in the Congo In June, the Belgians lost control of the Congo, which became the independent state of Congo-Kinshasa. Today it is known as Zaire.


Hemingway Journalist/Author, Nobel Prize winner in 1954. Died July 2, 1961.
Eichmann Adolf Eichman, Nazi leader and most feared Nazi. He was in charge of Hitler's Death Camps. He escaped to Argentine in 1946 and was captured by Israelies in 1960. Tried in 1961 and hanged in 1962 for his war crimes.
Stranger in a Strange Land Novel by Richard Heinlein published in 1961. Winner of the 1962 Hugo Award.
Dylan Robert Zimmerman/Bob Dylan -- Singer/Songwriter. Blowin' in the Wind (1962), Times They are a Changin' (1964)
Berlin The Wall goes up to devide East Communist Germany from West Democratic Germany.
Bay of Pigs Invasion April 17-19. The unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Communist government of Cuba by U.S. backed Cuban exiles.


Lawrence of Arabia Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
British Beatlemania The Boys, our inspiration, from Liverpool, England. John, Paul, Ringo and George. Popular for their childlike, whimsy looks and attitudes. 'Mod' clothing and 'Sheepdog' hair. What about our Beatle mania?
Ole Miss The University of Mississippi is the first to allow African Americans to attend a University.
John Glenn First American to orbit Earth
Liston beats Patterson 'Sonny' Liston, Actor/boxer. Heavyweight champion 1962-1964 beats Floyd Patterson, an Olympic gold medalist (boxing 1952) and the youngest to ever win the heavyweight title.


Pope Paul Paul I installed as Pope in 1963. He died on March 6, 1964. He was also the Monarch of Greece from 1947-1964.
Malcom X His original name was Malcom Little. After derogatory comments regarding the assassination of J.F.K he was silenced by Black Muslims. Murdered in 1965.
British Politician Sex British minister Stephen Ward was brought down by virtue of a sex scandal in the early 60s -- he had an affair with Christine Keeler and killed himself in shame. Check out the movie 'Scandal' for more details.
JFK blown away, what else do I have to say John F. Kennedy's assassination took place on Nov. 22, 1963 during a political parade in Dallas.


Birth Control The start of endless debates and controversies over birth control.
Ho Chi Minh Leader of the Vietminh against the Japanese. An ally of the US during WWII. He was president of North Vietnam during the period of the Vietnam War.
Richard Nixon back again After Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960, he ran for governor of California and lost. He called a press conference and angrily declared he was leaving politics and public life for good, telling the press 'You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more.' He didn't keep his promise, though, and hence the 'back again' reference. He became the 37th President from 1967-1974, then resigned. He ended the US presence in Vietnam, repaired relations with China, and initiated Detente with USSR.
Moonshot July 1969. U.S. wins race to the Moon, Neil Armstrong plants American flag.


Woodstock New York's 'Love-in.' On a 600 acre farm, 400,000 people gathered for 3 days of Rock n' Roll. It is reported that no fights took place, it rained most of the three days and 1 child was born.
Watergate Break in of Democratic National Headquarters, by Nixon White House Aides. Causing scandal, including evidence of missing tapes.


Punk Rock In the fifties, baby boomers were teens and they rebelled against adults with Rock n' Roll. In the early seventies, their children started punk rock.
Begin Begin Menachem, Prime minister of Israel 1977-1983. Attended a meeting with Anwar el Sadat resulting in the Camp David Accords. He is the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1978.


Reagan 40th President (1981-1989), instituted 'Reaganomics' in an attempt to spur the economy. He was also known for his conservative policies and the fact that he has been our oldest President (b. Feb. 6, 1911)
Palestine Continuing conflicts over a Palestinian homeland.
Terror on the Airline Many Hijackings and explosions took place during the 80's
Ayatollah's in Iran Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini began a Holy War with Iran.
Russians in Afghanistan Russian and Afgan government troops hold the major cities but rebels control the country side.
Wheel of Fortune One of the most popular TV game shows begins in the 80's
Sally Ride First woman in Space
Heavy Metal Suicide In the eighties, a rumor flourished that heavy metal music caused some kids to commit suicide. - Music doesn't kill people, people kill people (and guns).
Foreign Debts The United States, under Reagan's Reganomics, ran up trillions of dollars in National Debt.
Homeless Vets Due to the state of the economy and high unemployment, Vietnam vets are forced to the streets by the thousands.
AIDS The AIDS epidemic becomes the headline news.
Crack Cocaine has been around for awhile but it becomes popular again in another form.
Bernie Goetz Was attacked by 2-4 thugs in a New York subway. He returned the attack with gunfire from his legally registered gun. He left one in a wheelchair of the attackers. The incident later went to trial and due to a lack of evidence to prove that Goetz was acting in self defense, the victim (Goetz) was forced to pay approximately 1 million dollars to the families of the attackers. (You better believe we have a great justice system!)
Hypodermics on the Shore From the Pacific to Lake Michigan, the pollution in our water is recognized when people find hypodermic needles in the seas.
China's under Martial Law Democratic movement in China stopped by use of military force.
Rock & Roller Cola Wars, I can't take it anymore Michael Jackson and Pepsi, Paula Abdul and Coca-Cola

The World's always been kinda messed up, it was messed up before I was born, it was messed up during the time that I lived and it will probably be messed up after I'm gone. That doesn't mean you don't try the best that you can and make this a better world.
Copyright 1997, The Octopus's Garden
Revised 7/15/99