WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE

FROM A TO Z

On September 27, 1989, the iconic song by Billy Joel,  We Didn’t Start the Fire hit the airwaves.  It was a history lesson set to music.  When you first heard the song, did you know or remember all the people places, things and events mentioned in the lyrics?  I sure didn’t.  Back in 1989 before the internet was something everyone had access to, my boyfriend (now husband) and I headed to the local public library and looked up all the historical references.  This month, for the A to Z Challenge, I am writing about that history.

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

 

1949 – Red China

The history of the People’s Republic of China details the history of mainland China since October 1, 1949, when, after a near complete victory by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from atop Tiananmen. The PRC has for several decades been synonymous with China, but it is only the most recent political entity to govern mainland China, preceded by the Republic of China (ROC) and thousands of years of imperial dynasties.

Red China: The Communist Party of China wins the Chinese Civil War, establishing the People's Republic of China.

Red China: The Communist Party of China wins the Chinese Civil War, establishing the People’s Republic of China.

1950 – Richard Nixon

The 1950 United States Senate election in California followed a campaign characterized by accusations and name-calling. Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, after Democratic incumbent Sheridan Downey withdrew during the primary election campaign. Douglas and Nixon each gave up their congressional seats to run against Downey; no other representatives were willing to risk the contest.

Richard Nixon is first elected to the United States Senate.

Richard Nixon is first elected to the United States Senate.

1951 – Rosenbergs

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were United States citizens who were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union. They were instrumental in the transmission of information about top-secret military technology and prototypes of mechanisms related to the atomic bomb, which were of value to the Soviet nuclear weapons program and also provided top-secret radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the Soviet Union.

The Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius, were convicted on March 29 for espionage.

The Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius, were convicted on March 29 for espionage.

 

 

1953 – Rockefeller

 Winthrop Rockefeller and his wife Barbara are involved in a highly publicized divorce, culminating in 1954 with a record-breaking $5.5 million settlement

Winthrop Rockefeller and his wife Barbara are involved in a highly publicized divorce, culminating in 1954 with a record-breaking $5.5 million settlement

1954 – Roy Cohn

Roy Marcus Cohn (February 20, 1927 – August 2, 1986) was an American attorney. During Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigations into Communist activity in the United States during the Second Red Scare, Cohn served as McCarthy’s chief counsel and gained special prominence during the Army–McCarthy hearings. He was also known for being a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor at the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and later for representing Donald Trump during his early business career.

Roy Cohn resigns as Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel and enters private practice with the fall of McCarthy. He also worked to prosecute the Rosenbergs, mentioned earlier.

Roy Cohn resigns as Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel and enters private practice with the fall of McCarthy. He also worked to prosecute the Rosenbergs, mentioned earlier.

1954-“Rock Around the Clock”

One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock
Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
Put your glad rags on and join me hon’
We’ll have some fun when the clock strikes one
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight
When the clock strikes two, three and four
If the band slows down we’ll yell for more
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight
When the chimes ring five, six, and seven
We’ll be right in seventh heaven
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight
When it’s eight, nine, ten, eleven too
I’ll be goin’ strong and so will you
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight
When the clock strikes twelve we’ll cool off then
Start rockin’ ’round the clock again
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight
Songwriters: Jimmy Deknight / Max Freedman
Rock Around The Clock lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
"Rock Around the Clock" is a hit single released by Bill Haley & His Comets in May, spurring worldwide interest in rock and roll music.

“Rock Around the Clock” is a hit single released by Bill Haley & His Comets in May, spurring worldwide interest in rock and roll music.

 

1968 – Richard Nixon back again

On November 5, 1968, Richard Nixon is elected President of the United States.  Republican challenger Richard Nixon defeats Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Because of the strong showing of third-party candidate George Wallace, neither Nixon nor Humphrey received more than 50 percent of the popular vote; Nixon beat Humphrey by less than 500,000 votes. Nixon campaigned on a platform designed to reach the “silent majority” of middle class and working class Americans.
Richard Nixon back again: Former Vice President Nixon is elected in 1968.

Richard Nixon back again: Former Vice President Nixon is elected in 1968.

1976 – Reagan

In the 1976 Republican presidential primaries for the United States, incumbent President Gerald Ford was selected as the nominee through a series of primary elections and caucuses culminating in the 1976 Republican National Convention held from August 16 to August 19, 1976, in Kansas City, Missouri. 1976 was the first time that Republican primaries or caucuses were held in every state; the Democrats had previously done so in 1972.  Ford, the incumbent President, faced a very strong primary challenge from Ronald Reagan. The former California Governor was popular among the GOP’s conservative wing. The race for the nomination was the last one by the Republicans not to have been decided by the start of the party convention.
 Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States in 1980, but he first attempted to run for the position in 1976.

Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States in 1980, but he first attempted to run for the position in 1976.

1979 – Russians in Afghanistan

The Soviet–Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989. Insurgent groups known as the mujahideen fought against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Between 562,000–2 million civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran. The war is considered part of the Cold War.

Russians in Afghanistan: Following their move into Afghanistan, Soviet forces fight a ten-year war, from 1979 to 1989.

Russians in Afghanistan: Following their move into Afghanistan, Soviet forces fight a ten-year war, from 1979 to 1989.

1989 – Rock and Roller cola wars

The cola wars are a series of mutually-targeted television advertisements and marketing campaigns since the 1980s between two long-time rival soft drink producers, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo. The battle between the two dominant brands in the United States intensified to such an extent that the term “Cola wars” was used to describe the feud. Each employed numerous advertising and marketing campaigns to outdo the other.
Rock-and-roller cola wars: Soft drink giants Coke and Pepsi each run marketing campaigns using rock & roll and popular music stars to reach the teenage and young adult demographic.

Rock-and-roller cola wars: Soft drink giants Coke and Pepsi each run marketing campaigns using rock & roll and popular music stars to reach the teenage and young adult demographic.

 

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4 responses

  1. That’s a whoosh through history. A lot has changed since they were rocking around the clock

    Like

  2. Arlee Bird says:

    Some things don’t change all that much, but the players just change over the years.

    Personally I think Nixon could have been one of our greatest presidents if he hadn’t gotten mixed up in all that crazy Watergate thing.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Like

  3. Liam says:

    I always thought that Billy Joel finished weakly by having “Rock and Roller cola wars” as the last item in the last verse. The passage of time has shown it’s a lot less significant than many other things in the song.

    Like