What does We Didn't Start the Fire mean?

Search Login

Billy Joel: We Didn't Start the Fire Meaning

Song Released: 1989

Get "We Didn't Start the Fire" on MP3:

Get MP3 from Amazon
Get MP3 from iTunes

We Didn't Start the Fire Lyrics

[References link to Wikipedia—Oh yeah! -ed]

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

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I", and "The Catcher in the Rye"

Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

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

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock"

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, "Peter Pan", Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez


Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Zhou Enlai, "Bridge on the River Kwai"

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, "Ben-Hur", space monkey, Mafia
hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo


Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs Invasion

"Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK blown away, what else do I have to say!


Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon, back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

"Wheel of Fortune" , Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller Cola Wars, I can't take it anymore!


We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on...


    click a star to vote
    Feb 6th, 2012 2:46pm report

    The whole song is essentially an analysis of the events that happened between 1949 to 1989. The chorus discusses the fact that nothing we've done in recent years is directly responsible for the problems in the world ("We didn't start the fire"). The problems stem from events in the past ("It's always burning since the world's been turning"). The next lines of the chorus discuss the fact that each generation attempts to fix the issues of the last ("We didn't light it, but we tried to fight it"). And the last line refers to the idea that nothing we do, in an attempt to to fix the world's problems, is really going to have any long term effects ("But when we are gone, will it still burn on")


    click a star to vote
    Feb 7th, 2014 2:18pm report

    Everyone interprets it differently, as you can see on this page. To me he is alluding to the fact that evil has always existed. That as a society we try to discourage it, however evil simply exist and It can't be abolished. He uses events and experiences from his own life to illustrate the evil nature of the world.


    click a star to vote
    Apr 10th, 2012 4:06pm report

    I think that this song is about how the people before Billy Joel's time started something and Billy's generation tried to fix it.Also it could also mean people places, or things that happened during war.


    click a star to vote
    May 16th, 5:00am report

    it is a nice song to hear now again and learn more about it, since i heard of it when attending college and learning english, and watching it on mtv. its great, thanks potsy, yong zh CHINA


    click a star to vote
    Nov 14th, 2019 11:18am report

    The singer Billy Joel is taking the roll of a CNN news reporter thats covering in detail the different years in order 1949 1955 and 1969 in news summary anchor person who might been payed by a place like CNN

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


    click a star to vote
    May 1st, 2018 5:13am report

    This song is all the events that took place between when billy joel was born and when he released this song.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


    click a star to vote
    Jan 1st, 2018 1:04am report

    Just think if there was an update on this song from 89 till 2018. Smh


    click a star to vote
    Oct 4th, 2017 10:29am report

    The song is about people, places and things that have came about in different years.
    The name of the song is basically a statement made saying that they did not start the fire. It basically raises the question then of who did by relating the names only so you can do your history to find out. The Fire being what was accomplished by the persons, places or things he speaks of. This is one of his best songs in my book that really no one knows the answer to except Mr. Billy himself.


    click a star to vote
    Jun 10th, 2017 6:29pm report

    I think "we didn't start the fire" relates to the arson attack on the bundestag before ww2. One, the culprit remains a mystery and two, widely regarded as the event which Hitler exploited to gain more and more support to eventually become elected.


    click a star to vote
    Apr 30th, 2017 4:14pm report

    It's about our history and special events that has happened in the past 50 years.


    click a star to vote
    Aug 1st, 2016 8:02pm report

    A great song by Billy Joel and off course ''we didn't start the fire''. Naturally, that was GOD who started it all, since the world began. And also we didn't start the man made fires that caught up to our generation to inflame the chaos theory even more. This all started a long time ago. Who by the three percent of the top elite power rulers always loved and still loves to ''play with fire'' that have berned many of us and certainly we've been inhaling their smoke left behind for thousand's of years throughout history that always started fires and loved to inflame some of us to become illuminated chosen ones. In order to influence and entertaine for controlling the rest of the majority to become confused by their given fame of ''fire power'' that is still being fought with a lot of Holy Water Righteousness in the present time,


    click a star to vote
    Jan 2nd, 2015 1:53pm report

    I'm just gonna go into the chorus:

    We didn't start the evolution of humanity which is destroying the earth (like a fire), it has been going on since life was here,
    we are trying to save the earth.

    That might suck, but yea, that's what I think.


    click a star to vote
    Dec 17th, 2011 12:16pm report

    Each verse is about something that affected the world in a good or bad way and no matter how hard you try, you can't stop things from happening.


    click a star to vote
    Oct 6th, 2011 10:39pm report

    we have made a lot of problems and we need to fix them but we are not sure how and now we have all this crap to deal with...

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


    click a star to vote
    May 24th, 2011 5:21pm report

    i believe that the fire is a symbol for all the problems our world has seen, and all the people and events listed are things that have happened throughout Billy Joel's life. The chorus, i feel is a comfort blanket after listening to a 30 second rant on all the bad things, it is telling us that we will try our best to stop the fire or problems but it will never stop and that is not one generations fault it is what causes the world to go round.


    click a star to vote
    May 6th, 2011 5:09pm report

    i heard it was about all the events that happened during Billy Joel's lifetime. I also heard that it was most of the events that werent in Americas control ( that second part i only heard so correct this if im wrong)


    click a star to vote
    Apr 28th, 2011 4:02pm report

    it means we didnt start the problems theyve been there since the world was turning, but we tried to fight the fire.


    click a star to vote
    Apr 16th, 2011 4:45pm report

    When Billy Joel wrote this song he was talking about all of the crap that was happening in the world from when he was born til when he wrote the song. The "fire" is all the persecution that goes on in the world and hes saying that they didn't start the fire and that they are trying to fight it. Many of the Things that he lists in the song are persecutions between people and issues between groups of people.

‹ prev 1234

More Billy Joel song meanings »


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]

Just Posted

Outrunning Karma anonymous
Stiff Upper Lip anonymous
Talk of the Town anonymous
Whale & Wasp anonymous
Bizarre Love Triangle anonymous
Black Magic anonymous
If I Had $1000000 anonymous
On Top of the World anonymous
Aerials anonymous
One Night in Bangkok anonymous
Fields of Gold anonymous
Talking to the Moon anonymous
Cold anonymous
Next Contestant anonymous
Helpless anonymous

Get a weekly email update

(We won't give out your email)

Latest Releases

Next Girl
Carly Pearce
What Do You Think Of?
Lauren Alaina
What They'll Say About Us
Never Be Sorry
Old Dominion
Long Live
Florida Georgia Line
Bring Me the Horizon