The Secret Billy Joel Wants You To Know About “We Didn’t Start The Fire”


After a conversation with Sean Lennon (John Lennon’s son), artist Bill Joel said he wrote the song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” about a stream of consciousness. Sean had a friend who turned 21 and he was complaining about the difficulty of that age.

Billy Joel | Photo Credit Newsday

“I remember when I turned 21 and it was an awful time,” said musician Billy Joel. At the time, he had mixed emotions about things like the drug epidemic, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War.

Billy Joel started writing everything that happened between 1949 and 1989 so he could connect with everyone about to be 21 years old. It packed a punch.

Billy Joel Wrote For 21-Year-Old Listeners

“Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray, South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio, Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television, North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe…” sang the musician.

Now, Joel is no longer happy with the final song. While speaking to Oxford University, he said he “didn’t think it was that good to begin with.” In the end, he said it felt like “a dentist drill.”

This was the first time that Joel ever wrote the lyrics before the melody as well.

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