We Didn’t Start the Fire: 5th Edition

May 18, 2020

We Didn’t Start the Fire

we didn't start the fire

Billy Joel

Here’s the fifth iteration of We Didn’t Start the Fire (Annotated), first published on July 13, 2014 and last posted on February 10, 2018. For whatever it’s worth, no post at Mark Rubin Writes gets more views.

we didn't start the fire

Christie Brinkley

we didn't start the fire

Elle Macpherson

William M. Joel writes and sings songs. On March 23, 1985 he married tall and very classy Christie Brinkley. (They divorced on August 25, 1994.) Was Ms. Brinkley the Uptown Girl in Uptown Girl, Mr. Joel’s big 1983 hit song? Only maybe, for while Mr. Joel—the short, Downtown Guy—knew and was friendly with Ms. Brinkley when he wrote the song, at the time he was dating taller very Uptown babe Elle Macpherson.

Some readers know about my affinity for trivia. Every Monday night for five years I played trivia with my team, the Emperor Penguins, at Sky Bar in Tucson. Only illness, a family crisis, or being out of town kept me away: over 250 nights I missed less than 20 nights. (In the preceding paragraph I could have simply introduced the song and its writer, but that’s not how trivia guys roll!)

Anyway, back to Mr. Joel and what we’re here about. We Didn’t Start the Fire captures very well the people and events of Mr. Joel’s first 40 years, from 1949 through 1989. Mr. Joel wrote the song in response to a younger person’s paean to the good old days, while he lamented the present in 1989. Here’s the annotated version, with me hoping I’ll jog memories for older readers and trivia / history buffs and enlighten and educate younger readers.

Here goes:

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Harry Truman was the 33rd President of the United States of America, taking over after FDR’s death. He ended World War II in the Pacific by sending two atomic bombs. On his watch the U.S. recognized Israel and got involved with the United Nations police action in Korea. He lived for more than three years in Blair House, during the White House remodeling.

we didn't start the fire

Doris Day

Doris Day was and still is America’s Sweetheart, a mega-babe whose screen persona was definitely at variance with real life. Singing Que Sera, Sera to coax her son away from the bad guys in The Man Who Knew Too Much still give me goose bumps.

Red China is and has been since 1949 the People’s Republic of China. Still officially a Communist nation, it’s a driving force for capitalism … and that’s a contradiction best left unsaid within Chinese borders.

Johnnie Ray was an American singer who died in 1990 when he was 63. Tony Bennett says he was the father of rock and roll. Here’s Johnnie Ray and the Four Lads, performing Cry.

South Pacific is a Broadway musical. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the music and lyrics, respectively, while Mr. Hammerstein and Joshua Logan wrote the play. Based on Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener. Too many great songs, but here’s Some Enchanted Evening.

Walter Winchell was a gossip columnist, in his prime from the 1930s through the 1950s. He had ties to mobsters, J. Edgar Hoover, and Senator Joseph McCarthy, but was also close with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was very anti-isolationist about World War II. Larry King—yes, that one—replaced him as a columnist at the Miami Herald.

Joe DiMaggio was the Yankee Clipper, center fielder for the New York Yankees from 1936 through 1951, bridging the Gehrig and Mantle eras, just! He had hits in 56 consecutive games in 1941, a still-standing record. His brothers Vince and Dom also played major league baseball. He pitched Mr. Coffee for many years. He married, once to a movie actress he called Marilyn in public.

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Joseph McCarthy represented Wisconsin in the United States Senate, beginning in 1947. Without evidence, he saw Communists everywhere. He self-destructed. The Senate censured him in 1956. He died in office in 1957 from hepatitis, secondary to severe alcoholism. He destroyed lives!

Richard Nixon was the 36th Vice President of the United States of America and its 37th President and the only one who has ever resigned. He, too, claimed Communists were everywhere, but he survived his claims. So much to say; so little space! The man may be best summed up by the title of one his many books, Six Crises, written long before he became President Nixon.

we didn't start the fire


Studebaker was the automobile produced by Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company. No Studebakers after 1966.

Television? Got one. A month or so ago.

North Korea. Still here.

South Korea. Ditto.

Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean Baker, and was also Mrs. Joe DiMaggio and Mrs. Arthur Miller. She lived from 1926 until 1962 and was a deeply troubled soul and a very underrated actress. She was also almost certainly one of President John F. Kennedy’s girlfriends, and wished him a very happy birthday in 1962.

Rosenbergs, H‑Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I,” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

The Rosenbergs were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Convicted of spying for the Soviet Union—now Russia—in 1951, they were executed in 1953. They worked with others, none of whom were executed. For decades people disputed their guilt, but with the fall of the Soviet Union evidence surfaced establishing Julius Rosenberg’s guilt. Regarding Ethel, the evidence is apparently less clear.

The H-Bomb was the successor to the atomic bomb. Atomic bombs use a fission reaction, while H-Bombs, also called thermonuclear weapons, use a fusion reaction, although their trigger is a fission reaction. (And you now know everything I know about these weapons! For more, check the links.)

Sugar Ray is Sugar Ray Robinson, a welterweight / middleweight boxer. He won 173 of his 200 fights, 108 by knockouts, and was both the welterweight and middleweight champion of the world.

Panmunjom was the location in North Korea where parties to the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement signed the papers. Sixty-five years later? Not so good!!!   

we didn't start the fire

Marlon Brando

Brando refers to Marlon Brando, an incredibly talented actor. A Streetcar Named Desire. On the Waterfront. Mutiny on the Bounty. Godfather. Last Tango in Paris. Superman.

The King and I was another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, this one based on Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, which was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens. Yul Brynner made the King of Siam his signature role.

The Catcher in the Rye was J.D. Salinger’s only full-length published novel. Stay tuned for more, maybe, as Mr. Salinger placed a hold on published works until 2060, 50 years after his death in 2010.

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

Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States of America. He served as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and became President of Columbia University between his two international leadership roles. Grandson David Eisenhower—married to Ike’s VP Dick Nixon’s younger daughter Julie for 49 years—partially provided the new name for Shangri-La, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Vaccine must be referring to the polio vaccine, first developed and made available in the mid-1950s by Dr. Jonas Salk. Previously, polio crippled and killed. (FDR suffered its after-effects for most of his adult life.) With the leadership of Rotary International and, more recently, the Gates Foundation, we’ve damn near licked polio. [Notice: Robert Fleming, one of the five smartest people I know, thinks Billy Joel was maybe referring to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, as well as the smallpox vaccine. Right he is, almost surely.]

we didn't start the fire

Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith

Elizabeth II was crowned on February 6, 1952. If you see her, “Your Majesty” or “Ma’am” work well as titles. She has been serving with dignity and grace for 66 years and a few days.

Rocco Francis Marchegiano aka Rocky Marciano was a boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world. He won 49 professional fights (43 by knockouts), and never lost a professional fight.

Władziu Valentino Liberace was a very fine pianist and the showman of his era.

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás was George Santayana. His life spanned an extraordinary period, as he was born in Spain in 1863 and died in Italy in 1952. (He spent most of the first half of his life in the United States.) A philosopher / writer, we remember him most quickly for sharing with us that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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

Josef Stalin aka Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, aka Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Ста́лин served as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. Georgian by birth, he led the nation which Mother Russia dominated.

Georgy Malenkov, like Stalin, was a Lenin acolyte. In 1953, when Stalin died, he replaced him as both Premier and Party General Secretary, the power job in the U.S.S.R. The jobs got split soon after, Nikita Khrushchev became the General Secretary, Malenkov fell out of favor, and ended up exiled to Kazakhstan.

Gamel Abdel Nasser was the second president of Egypt. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in 1952 and led the revolution that overthrew King Farouk. He was the president from 1956 through 1970, when he suffered a heart attack and died.

Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian composer / conductor / pianist. He died in Moscow on the day on which Stalin’s death was announced.

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Nelson Rockefeller

Nelson Rockefeller—I assume he’s the one to whom Mr. Joel refers—was a John D. grandson. Governor of New York for almost 15 years and Vice President of the United States for about two years. Rocky was also an extraordinary art collector and a major character.

Roy Campanella was a great catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers. With an Italian father and an African-American mother, he had to play, if at all, in the Negro League. He joined the Dodgers in 1948, one year after Jackie Robinson, played 10 seasons, and was in the All-Star game for his last nine seasons. He suffered paralysis after an auto accident in 1958.

The Communist Bloc was a group of mostly European countries that operated under the ambit of the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia marched a bit more to its own drummer, and Asian nations—China, North Korea, and North Vietnam—also had looser relationships with the U.S.S.R.   

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock
we didn't start the fire

Roy Cohn and his Mentee

Roy Cohn = momzer. He was an attorney, a disciple of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and a miserable person. He played a significant role in the Army-McCarthy hearings, which brought about Sen. McCarthy’s downfall. He was disbarred soon before he died in 1986. Mr. Cohn also ran Lionel, the model train company his great uncle started, until he was removed after almost running it into the ground.

Juan Peron was the President of Argentina from 1946 through 1955, and again in 1973-4. He died in office in 1974 and was succeeded by his wife, Isabel Peron. His first wife, actress Eva Peron, was extremely popular and her life inspired the musical Evita.

Arturo Toscanini was an Italian symphony conductor. Born in 1867, he moved to the U.S. permanently in 1937. At various times in his career he was the music director for the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. He also led the NBC Symphony Orchestra for 17 years.

Dacron aka Dacron polyester is polyethylene teraphthalate. (And now you’re surely smarter than you were before!)

Dien Bien Phu is the place in Vietnam where, over 56 days that began on March 13, 1954, the French lost Vietnam forever. When the battle ended North and South Vietnam came into existence, and Vietnam remained divided for 28 years.

Max Freedman and James E. Meyers wrote Rock Around the Clock in 1952. Bill Haley and the Comets made it famous.

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

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James Dean was an actor whose three films—East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause, and Giant—made him an icon. He died at 24 in a car crash.

Once upon a time the L.A. Dodgers lived in Brooklyn, where their fans called them “Dem Bums.” They won the World Series for the first time in 1955. The team, through its owner/general manager Branch Rickey, integrated major league baseball in 1947.

Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. A Disney show starring Fess Parker, telling the “story” of Davy Crockett, a Tennessean who served in the House of Representatives (from Tennessee), fought with President Andrew Jackson, moved to Texas, and died at the Alamo.

J. M. Barrie created Peter Pan, the adventurous, fantastic flying boy who never grows up. Finding Neverland is one terrific movie.

Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll.

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Disneyland. “The happiest place on Earth,” and that’s a well-deserved title.

*I know I said nothing about Albert Einstein. What works? Jewish patent clerk who explained everything? Princeton professor? I think the name stands alone!

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez
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Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot was “the bomb” in the 1950s and 60s. She made And God Created Woman, has a long career as an animal rights activist, and has several ugly blemishes re: racism and Right-Wing associations.

Budapest. The capital of Hungary, which had the temerity in 1956 to think that it could slip the Iron Curtain, established by the U.S.S.R. aka Russia.

[Somehow, until this version of this post, I missed Alabama. What to say? Well, I don’t know, so I will let Old Pal Fleming weigh in:

George Wallace, hardly the first racist governor of that state, won his first gubernatorial race there in 1963. The Alabama Constitution precluded him from succeeding himself, so four years later his wife Lurleen ran for and won the position, and he became the “First Gentleman” of Alabama – though only for one year, since Lurleen died in office. Four years after that he ran for and won his seat back. After Governor Fob James served a four-year term, Wallace won his third non-consecutive term, ending in 1987. Meanwhile, humorist Tom Lehrer in 1960 wrote and performed one of his most topical songs, “Who’s Next”, about nuclear non-proliferation (or, more accurately, nuclear proliferation). The final couple was particularly jarring: “We’ll try to remain serene and calm, when Alabama gets the bomb.” When Lehrer sang that, John Malcom Patterson was the governor of Alabama. He later achieved a modicum of additional fame by being the specially-appointed judge who presided over the trial of Chief Justice Roy Moore for removal from his position.

Yes, we might be in the realm of TMI, but what should I have cut?]

Nikita Khrushchev replaced Georgy Malenkov as First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1953 and held other high positions in the party and the country. He was dumped in 1964, mostly for being just a touch too liberal.

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Grace Kelly

Princess Grace was Grace Kelly, the American actress who made 11 films and retired at 26 to become Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco, Mrs. Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi, and mom to Caroline, Albert, and Stéphanie.

Peyton Place. Book. Movie. Television show. Grace Metalious wrote the story. The television show featured Ryan O’Neal and Mia Farrow. Peyton Place was a prime-time soap opera for several years in the 60s. The less often referenced movie starred Lana Turner.

In 1956 there was a brief, mini-war between Egypt and Britain, France, and Israel. Egypt’s President, Gamel Abdel Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal. For differing reasons the other nations didn’t like that plan. Bombs got dropped, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. intervened, and calm prevailed after a few months and lots of diplomacy.

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

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Brown v. Board of Education in May 1954. Brown (II) issued on May 31, 1955 and directed that public schools be integrated with all deliberate speed. In September 1957 Negro students tried to go to school at Central High School in Little Rock, AR. President Eisenhower sent troops from the 101st Airborne Division to get them in and protect them.

Boris Pasternak was a Russian author—and Nobel laureate—who wrote Doctor Zhivago, first published in the West in 1957. (Here’s Lara’s Theme, a song from the 1965 David Lean movie.)

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Mickey Mantle

Mickey Mantle was the New York Yankee successor to Joe DiMaggio. An all-American boy from Oklahoma, he hit lots of home runs, struck out plenty, and holds six World Series records, even though he played in his last game almost 50 years ago.

Jack Kerouac was a Beat poet/novelist from the San Francisco school. His most famous book is On the Road. Many of his books are still in print, almost 50 years after he died.

Sputnik was the Russian space satellite, and the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. Sputnik energized the U.S. to beat the Russkis to the moon.

Zhou Enlai served as the first Premier (head of state) of the People’s Republic of China. He played a significant role in the process that led to diplomatic and other ties between China and the U.S., beginning in 1972.

David Lean made Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957. The movie tells the story of British POWs in Burma—now known an Myanmar—during WWII and relates to the construction of the Burma Railway. Alec Guinness and William Holden played lead roles. The movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1958, as did Mr. Guinness and Mr. Lean.  

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkweather homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Lebanon. 1958. Fighting between Muslims and Maronite Christians. And again from 1975 to 1990. And … .

Charles de Gaulle was a French general who led the Free France movement during WWII. He served as the President of France from 1959 until 1969 and held other offices briefly after WWII.

California baseball came about when Walter O’Malley bought out his Brooklyn Dodgers partners and moved the team to Los Angeles. The Stoneham family moved the New York Giants at the same time. “Two teams or no teams,” said Major League Baseball to Mr. O’Malley.

The Starkweather homicide refers to the murders of 11 people by Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. Enough said!

Thalidomide was a sedative first prescribed in 1957. It did its job, unless its user was a pregnant woman, in which case it caused many children to suffer from malformed limbs. The drug is still on the market today and is used to treat cancers and leprosy.

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no‑go

Buddy Holly was the lead singer for the Crickets. Along with Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (J.R. Richardson), and the pilot, he died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. That was, according to American Pie by Don McLean, the day the music died. Mr. Holly’s biggest hit was That’ll Be the Day, and he gets credited as a major force in the development of rock and roll.

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Ben Hur

Ben Hur was a Hollywood movie like few others. The movie followed the book, written in 1880 by Lew Wallace, a Union general and governor of the New Mexico territory. The book and movie tell a story about Rome and Jews in the time of Christ. The movie won 11 Oscars, including awards for best picture, best actor (Charlton Heston), and best director (William Wyler).

In the late 50s the U.S. used monkeys as living beings in space. Then we sent men and, later still, women and men.

The Mafia. Watch the Godfather trilogy or study up on your own. It’s a subject I leave alone.

Hula Hoops were first introduced in modern times as a “you can buy it in the store” toy in the late 1950s.

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Fidel Castro

Castro is Fidel Castro, who took over Cuba in early 1959 and, with his brother more recently, has been in charge ever since. That means he outlasted Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush. That’s 10 presidents, and you can count for yourself if you doubt me. So much for the embargo! (Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016, 18 days after we elected Donald Trump.)

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The Edsel was a Ford automobile, named after Henry Ford’s son. Flop! Major flop!!!

U-2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

U-2 does not refer to Bono’s music group. The U-2 is an American spy plane that flies very high. On May 1, 1960 Soviets shot down Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 over the U.S.S.R. He was convicted of spying and later returned to the U.S. in a prisoner swap for a Soviet spy (who, by the way, was a much bigger deal than Captain Powers.) Mr. Powers died in 1977, flying a helicopter back from covering brush fires in the Los Angeles area.

Syngman Rhee was the first president of the Republic of Korea and, later, the first president of South Korea. He died in 1960.

Payola involved money paid to disc jockeys and others to get records played on radio stations.

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John F. Kennedy

Kennedy was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States and, still, our only Catholic president.

Chubby Checker aka Ernest Evans, made The Twist a big deal, both as a song and a dance.

Psycho is a very scary Alfred Hitchcock movie. It centers on the Bates Motel and it features a shower scene which is the No 6 Movie Moment of all time, lodged between No. 7 (The flying bikes from E.T.) and No. 5 (“We’re gonna need a bigger boat” from Jaws.)

The Congo was a Belgian territory until 1960, when it became independent from Belgium. It’s now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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
Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion
we didn't start the fire

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway wrote novels, including The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. He was a man’s man who hunted, fished, fought, and drank. (He also left behind a great burger recipe, found in JFK Presidential Library and Museum files.)

Adolf Eichmann murdered Jews during WWII. Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, caught him in Argentina in 1960. He was tried, convicted, and hanged.

Stranger in a Strange Land was written by Robert Heinlein. It’s a major science fiction work.

Dylan is Nobel Laureate Robert Allen Zimmerman from Hibbing, MN, aka Bob Dylan. (He was actually born in Duluth.) He’s a major contributor to the American folk rock songbook. Blowin’ in the Wind, The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and Like a Rolling Stone are but three of his well-known songs.

In 1961 East Germany and the U.S.S.R. built the Berlin Wall to keep East Germans from going west to freedom and opportunity. It also made West Berlin an island within East Germany, accessible only by air. President Kennedy told Berliners he was one of them during a 1963 visit; later, President Ronald Reagan told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” And as of February 5, 2018 it’s been gone for longer than it existed.

During the Eisenhower Administration the CIA came up with a plan to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro, using Cuban ex-pats and others. President Kennedy let the plan go forward. It failed. President Kennedy announced, after the failure, that “victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”     

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
we didn't start the fire

Lawrence of Arabia

David Lean made Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, telling the story of T.E. Lawrence, the British officer who played a big role in ending the Ottoman Empire. Peter O’Toole starred as Lawrence. The film received 7 Oscars, including awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor, and Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif).

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The Beatles

British Beatlemania. (Not quite Einstein, but there’s not much to say that has not been said already.)

Ole Miss is the University of Mississippi. The school admitted James Meredith in 1962, but his skin color and the actions of Governor Ross Barnett forced the Kennedy Administration to send in the Army.

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John Glenn

John Glenn was not the first man in space, and he was not even the first American in space. He was, however, the first man who orbited the Earth. Later, he was a United States Senator from Ohio, serving from 1974 through 1999. As a Senator and a 77-year-old he flew on the Shuttle.

Liston beats Patterson refers to the heavyweight championship fight on September 26, 1962. The world liked nice guy / champion Floyd Patterson and did not like challenger Charles “Sonny” Liston. Liston won in the first round. On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay—The Greatest, aka Muhammad Ali—took the title from Mr. Liston.

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician Sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say?

Pope Paul VI was Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini. He served as Pope from 1963 through 1978, replacing Pope John XXIII.

Malcolm X was Malcolm Little, a poor Negro destined for trouble. In prison he joined the Nation of Islam. When he left prison he became a minister, preached racist views, and became a national figure. Soon before he died he quit the Nation of Islam and disavowed his racist talk. He was murdered by Nation of Islam members in 1963

British Politician Sex refers to the Profumo scandal. John Profumo. He was the British Secretary of State for War and was having an affair with a woman who was also sleeping with a Russian diplomat. He resigned in a major scandal, but was later rehabilitated—knighted, even, and honored with a seat next to Queen Elizabeth at Prime Minister Thatcher’s birthday party—because of his grunt work for a London charity.

we didn't start the fire

Walter Cronkite

November 22, 1963. Walter Cronkite: “From Dallas Texas the flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.”

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
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Birth control. As Joe Biden would say, “A Big F***ing Deal!”

Hồ Chí Minh was the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the President of Vietnam from 1945 until he died in 1969. (For many of those years the world recognized as a separate country South Vietnam.)

Richard Nixon. If it feels like he’s back again, and that I’ve already said everything that needs to be said, that’s how it felt back in the day.

we didn't start the fire

Neil Armstrong

July 21, 1969. Neil Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

we didn't start the fire


Woodstock was the apotheosis of the 60s. Max Yasgur owned a large dairy farm in Bethel, NY, which he leased out for a rock and roll concert. He thought the concert would have maybe 150,000 attendees. More like 400,000 showed up. Greatest concert album ever!

With Tricky Dick (Richard Nixon) it was never quite over. Watergate. The man orchestrated a cover-up of some really serious crimes (and may have authorized some of them in advance.) In the process he brought the government down around him. The Republic survived, of course, but when people claim this or that is worse than Watergate, they’re: (a) young; (b) ignorant; or (c) partisan liars! This was one big, bad operation!!!

Punk Rock? Not sure what it’s all about but think Beastie Boys and the Ramones.

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollahs in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
we didn't start the fire

Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat

Menachim Begin was an Irgun fighter in 1948, blowing things up in Palestine. He served as Israel’s Prime Minister, made peace with Egypt, and received—with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat—the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978. (For those who like to consider what ifs, imagine the Middle East today without peace between Egypt and Israel.)

Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States, serving from January 20, 1981 through January 20, 1989. For those who count, 2922 days. The good? That wall did come down. The bad? He sowed the “What’s In It For Me” seeds and we’re reaping their rotten fruit every day.

Palestine is a geographic region in Western Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” And there’s nothing to see here, move along. Seriously, it’s hard to imagine a mess that cannot be resolved, but this one seems simply unsolvable.

Two planes—Kuwaiti Airlines Flight 221 and TWA Flight 847—were hijacked in December 1984 and June 1985, respectively. Then, on December 21, 1988, Libyans bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, murdering 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground.

In 1978 Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was deposed in Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, living in exile in France, returned to Iran and became its Supreme Leader. Since then the country has been ruled by clerics, despite its having an elected government.

The Soviet Union was enmeshed in Afghanistan from 1979 through 1989, and in a way not dissimilar from U.S. involvement in Vietnam (and, more recently, the U.S. in Afghanistan.) So much wasted energy and resources.

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hangman, with a nitwit host and a pretty blonde letter turner. Lots of hundreds of millions of dollars for show creator Merv Griffin. That’s Wheel of Fortune.

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Dr. Sally Ride

Dr. Sally Ride. First American woman in space. Youngest American in space. Champion for girls in science! Died young at 61. Thanks for all you did!

“Heavy Metal Suicide.” Apparently, some heavy metal music listeners hear satanic messages, and some of them committed suicide. Sad, just sad.

In 1985, for the first time since WWI, the United States of America owed foreigners more than they owed it.

In 1975, in O’Connor v. Donaldson, the U.S. Supreme Court told states they could not institutionalize non-dangerous individuals just because they were mentally ill. Coupled with there being no interest in funding mental health care at any governmental level, we ended up with a large population of homeless people suffering from mental illnesses, including many, many vets.

AIDS. A devastating epidemic which got ignored because it impacted a population too many wanted to ignore.

Crack cocaine is a cheaper form of cocaine, used in the main in African-American communities. Mandatory sentencing at the federal level and in many states has resulted in disproportionately harsh sentences for crack cocaine sellers and users.

Bernie Goetz was an early practitioner of vigilante justice. Gun at the ready on December 22, 1984, he shot four black men on a subway car in New York City, claiming they tried to mug him. Charged with attempted murder and other crimes, he was only convicted of carrying an unlicensed firearm.

Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

Hypodermics on the shores refers to needles washing up on beaches, and the problems with ocean pollution have only gotten worse.

On June 4, 1989, after demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Chinese government officials authorized soldiers to fire on demonstrators. Hundreds or thousands died, and the leaders placed the country under martial law.

Coke and Pepsi have been at it for years, seeking more consumers of their dark, sugary substances. Michael Jackson, Julio Iglesias and others cashed in on the battle for market share.

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning since the world’s been turning.
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on
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
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
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

Oh. Sorry. The song: We Didn’t Start the Fire!

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