- Previously, I had to write an essay about a song for my English 102 class, This song was the one that I wrote about. Not so excellent ( English is not my first language).However, I still got 95 on it:) ( yeah,also,Bryant and Judith, my college friends got A’s too).In fact, I got to know this song about 2 years ago. The first time I heard this was in Ms. Fisher’s class. Yet she is the coolest female teacher that I have ever seen before;)
In 1989, Billy Joel released the song named “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which is known as a concise recitation of U.S and world history from 1949 to 1989 in musical form. Since then and now, this song is still used by high school history teachers to help their students summarize and remember main events that impacted the U.S history. Due to that uniqueness, its diverse and meaningful messages, as well as the way it inspires educators, I strongly propose “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as a nomination for Annual Songs of American Heritage Festival Exhibit.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” was first released in September 1989 and was the most popular and special song at the time. The lyrics are fast- running with the chronologic recount of 119 events, presenting an accurate summary and a picture of U.S history and society in almost forty years, such as “Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray… Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride (Kurtus).The lyrics and the tune, create a perfect combination of memories and excitement for the listeners.
The song, again, is a quick and credible source of history events. It clearly reflects many aspects of U.S society in the past, which were political, social, economical and cultural. Its lyrics intelligently present many significant events such as famous people, media, entertainment, sports, foreign and domestic affairs. As President Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy are mentioned in the song as political figures, as well as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, two of the most popular movie stars and singers ever. J.D.Salinger’s book “The Catcher in the Rye”, an extremely popular and social impacted novel which talks about teenagers’ rebellious feelings and attitudes toward the society in the twenties is also included. Furthermore, Birth control and AIDS are cited as reminders of strong social issues at that time. In addition, black history and race discrimination are recaptured through the recall of Malcolm X, Little Rock and Mark Luther King.
In fact, the chorus, which is respectively repeated throughout the song, is the most interesting and meaningful part. “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning. No, we didn’t light it. But we tried to fight it”. The “fire” here represents many negative changes; it means that each generation did not cause those negative events ( light the fire) or feel responsible for those occurrences, but all tried to fight back to stop the problems(Kurtus).
Controversially, some people would say that “We Didn’t Start the Fire” will not be suitable for the nominations of the Exhibition. Blender magazine once argued that the song is too brief to discuss the major changes in forty years of U.S history “Can you fit a cultural history of the twentieth century into four minutes? Uh, no” (Aizlewood). However, its briefness is what would intrigue people’s interests to the song; in fact, this song does hold a wide range of historical and social values. One of the proofs is that educators, who are professionally trained, still today use it as a study aid for their students. According to readwritethink.org, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is highly recommended as a history reference, “The lyrics include references to people, places and events from four decades of world occurrences. In the lesson, students research and categorize items from the song as well as illustrate their historical relevance” (Fink).
Altogether, despite the fact that it is only a four minutes song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is still a perfect fit for the nomination. In a very positive way, the song’s contribution to society has helped bring an awareness of events and aid in history education; It also has successfully demonstrated American diverse cultural and Heritage and should be honored for the Annual Songs of American Heritage Festival Exhibit.
Kurtus, Ron. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” ( Lyrics), History Summary from 1949-1989.” School of Champions. 15 Nov. 2007. Ron Kurtus,and School for Champions LLC. 21 Feb. 2010.
Fink, Lisa. “ The history Behind Song Lyrics.” Readwritethink.org.n.d.IRA/NCTE. 20 Feb. 2010.
Aizlewood, John, et al. “Run for Your Life! It’s the 50 Worst Songs Ever.” Blender.com. Jan 1. 1990. Alpha Media Group Inc. 21 Feb. 2010.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Wikipedia.org. 24 Feb.2010. Wikimediafoundation.org. 20 Feb 2010.