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We Didn’t Start the Fire

We Didn’t Start the Fire


by Billy Joel

We Didn’t Start the Fire Introduction

In a Nutshell

This is not your typical Billy Joel song. There’s no uptown girl or piano man—just a rapid-fire list of events and names from 1949 to 1989. Not everyone loved it. Blender called it “one of the worst songs ever” and compared it to “a term paper scribbled the night before it’s due.” Still, the song managed to sit on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and was nominated for two Grammys.

So is this what happens when high school dropouts try to write history? Or did Joel do a pretty good job of summing up the events surrounding the first 40 years of his life? You decide.

About the Song

ArtistBilly Joel Musician(s)Billy Joel (vocals, piano)
AlbumStorm Front
Writer(s)Billy Joel
Producer(s)Mick Jones, Billy Joel
Learn to play: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/billy_joel/we_didnt_start_the_fire_crd.htm
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Billy Joel is one of the most influential songwriters of the past thirty years. His story and his music are an integral part of rock and roll history. But in this song, Joel went beyond rock’s history and tried to capture the historical highlights during his own life. The song touches on key events of the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, Korea, the Red Scare, the Cuban Missile Crisis—the list goes on and on and on.

On the Charts

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” made it all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1989. The song was also nominated for a Record of the Year Grammy.

Interestingly enough, as popular as the song was—and still is, to some extent—, Blender magazine ranked it #41 on its list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever. Sheesh, tell us how you really feel.

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