We Didn't Start the Fire By: Kendra smith

Social/cultural developments:

Harry Truman

Harry Truman: (1945 - 1953) Truman was the 33rd president of the United States and was president at the beginning of the cold war. He was in the song because he felt it was necessary for the USA because he didn't want communism to spread. If it wasn't for him, I believe we would've never had to join the cold war. I believe Billy Joel included Truman in this song because he was vital to the cold war. Fun Fact: Truman survived an assassination attempt.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe: (1950's) Marilyn was a sex icon during the 1950's. She was most likely included in this song for how famous she was during this time period. People today are still obsessed with her and are quotes and style are still affecting people. Fun Fact: Her real name is Norma Jeane Mortenson. There's more to tell about her significance in the Political section.

TV from the 1950's

Television: (1950's) Television emerged as the most powerful mass medium since the invention of the printing press. During the cold war, the tv would show the paranoia with the war, making people have more anxiety about it. I believe Billy mentioned this because it impacted so many people in a negative way to see what was going on in the wars. I find it a little ironic because today, tv is more of a comfort item rather than causing bad anxiety. Fun Fact: The television was invented in 1927.


Music: (1950's) Music impacted people a lot in the 1950's. People used it as a way to protest the war. A lot of the music icons from this time period are still huge icons today and affect people today, like Elvis. I believe Billy picked music to further express what the war meant to him and why he wrote the song. Fun Fact: The song came out in 1989, 2 years before the cold war ended.

The King and I

The King and I: (1951) This movie was a big deal at this time and it was also a broadway musical which is probably why Joel used this on his song. It stood for love and adventure during a time of chaos, and people are still performing it today. Fun Fact: It was based off “Anna and the King of Siam.”

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye: (1951) The reason Joel most likely used this book in his song because it was popular at the time and Americans related to it. America was struggling with depression and many other things that the book touched, which made people relate and enjoy it. It's still a really popular book that people can connect with. Fun Fact: It has been on many ban lists from the content.


Elvis Presley: (1958) At this time, Elvis was huge for his music and acting skills. He is an icon and that's probably why Joel mentions him. There's more about him in the Political section. Fun Fact: He won three Grammys, also receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Political/International Relations/ Military Events

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon: (1950) Nixon's views of the war was different than most other leaders of America. He altered the Policy of the war which is probably why he was mentioned in the song. Tv cartoons and others still look up to Nixon. Fun fact: 37th president.

Marilyn Monroe: (1950's) Marilyn was rumored to be having an affair with JFK. After a death not long after the rumors, people started conspiracy theories, stating that the government had her killed for being too close to JFK, which is another good reason for her being in the song.

Elvis Presley: (1957) Elvis was drafted into the war. Even though he never was in an actual battle, he was still famous, and this was a big deal, which is another good reason for him being in the song.

Crack/ Cocaine: (1980-1991) I believe Joel mentioned this in his song because towards the end of the war it was rumored that the government released crack on the streets to distract the people from the war. If this is true, than that would mean its the governments fault for why crack is so bad out on the streets today. Fun Fact: It's made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America.

Economic/scientific/technological developments


H-Bomb: (1950) After the USSR made the atomic bomb, the US wanted to make a bomb as well. It was probably mentioned because of all the controversy over it. Fun Fact: "In this type of bomb, deuterium and tritium (hydrogen isotopes) are fused into helium, thereby releasing energy" (http://www.atomicarchive.com/History/coldwar/page04.shtml)

Television: (1950's) "Through close examination of 1950s television, including news, public service announcements, documentaries, and science fiction programming, this class investigates the ways that television reflected and perpetuated fear and hysteria during the Cold War period, a pivotal moment in modern history." (https://www.paleycenter.org/education-class-red-scare-cold-war-television/) This was more than likely mentioned for all the stuff they were showing on the tv at the time.


Sputnik: (1957) "The Sputnik Crisis was a period of public fear and anxiety about the perceived technological gap between the United States and Soviet Union caused by the launch of Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_crisis) The reason for this being in the song was probably due to the panic that had been set in America from it.

Vaccines: (1962) Epidemics were a concern for children during the summer at this time. Most likely mentioned for all the vaccines produced at the time. "Cold War tensions caused Western scientists to refuse the reports from the Russians about the effectiveness of the Sabin vaccine. However, mass vaccinations of Sabin’s vaccine spread throughout Eastern Europe from 1960–1963" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_war_tensions_and_the_polio_vaccine)

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