S: We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel, Lyric Analysis by Jacobo Posada
FC: "We Didn't start the Fire" by Billy Joel Lyric Analysis by Jacobo Posada ECA Social Studies period 1
1: The song “We Didn't Start the Fire” by Billy Joel mentions some of the most important events and people from the 1960’s until the 1980’s. I have been assigned a particular time period of the song which is the 1980’s. In the part of the song which I worked on, Billy Joel refers to “Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide, foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz”. I chose to analyze five of these ten people, places and/or things and wrote a paragraph for each one of them. I selected: Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, homeless vets, AIDS and Bernie Goetz. I chose to analyze these five topics because they were the ones I wanted to learn the most about.
3: Sally Kristen Ride was born in Los Angeles, California in 1951. Sally was a high ranked tennis player in the United States and on June 18, 1983, she became the first woman ever to go to space. Sally Kristen went to space on a space shuttle called the Challenger. Sally was put into the record books all over the world because she was the first woman to go to space and this made her memorable in history forever. Sally beat 1,000 other men and women who applied for a job post in the NASA astronaut program. She got the NASA post because she had the right academic background and research experience to be an astronaut. Sally had a bachelors degree in English and physics from Stanford University. Also, she had a masters degree and a Ph.D. in physics, having done research on astrophysics and free electron laser physics. Sally Ride also passed many NASA tests that were required to become an astronaut, such as a gravity capsule test and an under water training program. I think Billy Joel put Sally's name into the lyrics of his song "We didn't Start the Fire" because that year, 1983, she was very famous in the U.S. for being the first woman ever to go into space.
5: The "Wheel of Fortune" is a TV game show with a wheel contestants spin, which was created by Merv Griffin to entertain American people. It became America's favorite TV show because of its many games and prizes for the winners. The show was first broadcast on air on January 6, 1975, at 10:30AM on NBC and it was made for American viewers to have fun. In the show, people participated in different games and contests, and the winners would take home great prizes such as cars and large amounts of money. Some of the games that people played on the show were hangman, quizzes, music-name guessing, dancing contests and much more. I think Billy Joel put “Wheel of Fortune” into the lyrics of his song "We didn't start the Fire" because in the year of the song, the TV show became really popular in the United States.
7: Bernie Goetz was born on November 7, 1947, in Queens, New York. On December 22, 1984, he went into the New York subway with an illegal .38 caliber revolver and sat down in a compartment with four teenagers. Once the subway started moving, the teenagers stood up and started to ask Bernie for his money. Bernie said no but the teenagers persisted. Bernie Goetz, then, made a desperate decision by taking out his gun and shooting the four of them. He, then, ran away from the place but eight days after the incident, Bernie Goetz turned himself into the police. Later, he was acquitted by the jury and not sent to jail. He is still alive now and lives in New York City. I think Billy Joel put Bernie Goetz into the lyrics of his song "We didn't start the Fire" because in that year New Yorkers were sick and tired of the increasing crime in the city. They considered Goetz a hero for taking justice into his own hands and doing what many of them wanted to do but did not dare to do it.
9: In 1981, doctors in some of the major cities in the U.S. (e.g. New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles), started noticing that their young male patients were dying because of a rare immune system deficiency (AIDS). Doctors were puzzled because nothing that they gave to the infected patients seemed to cure them. No medicine could stop the disease from killing the patients and it seemed that an epidemic was starting to form in the United States. In 1981, when the first cases of AIDS were discovered, there were only 225 reported cases of AIDS in the U.S. but six years later, in 1987, there were about 40,000 reported cases. By the end of the 1980’s going into the 1990’s, it was known that AIDS had infected hundreds of thousands of Americans and there was still no cure for it despite medical efforts to find one. People in the United States were very scared, especially when they learned that AIDS could be transmitted by sharing needles and by sexual intercourse. I think Billy Joel mentions AIDS in the lyrics of his song "We Didn't start the Fire" because in the 1980’s people feared that an AIDS epidemic would set off in the United States and that millions of people would die.
11: In the 1980’s, veterans of war (Vietnam War and other wars) were spread all over the United States without a place to live other than the streets. Some nights, there could be up to 200,000 veterans sleeping on the street sidewalks of many American cities (e.g. Washington D.C. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago). Many veterans came back from the war and became homeless because they did not have any jobs to make the money they needed to rent a place to live in or to satisfy their basic needs. This happened because they didn't have the professional skills to work and also because the U.S. economy back then was depressed and jobs were very scarce. Also, many of the veterans returned from the war with psychological effects that handicapped them to have a normal life and get a normal job. Also, the drugs the veterans took during the war to help them ease the pain caused them unhealthy secondary effects, which were another obstacle to get a job. It was also very difficult for the veterans to have a normal life because they couldn't afford new clothes, haircuts, and food. Seventy-nine percent of the homeless veterans lived in central cities, 16% in suburban areas and 5% in rural areas all over the U.S. Many homeless lived in alleys next to restaurants because of all the food that was thrown away into the trash cans. I think Billy Joel put “Homeless Vets” into the lyrics of his song “We didn't start the Fire” because in that year it was very common to see them lying on the streets begging for money, eating, sleeping and trying to stay alive.
12: Quiz 1. When were the first cases of AIDS discovered in the U.S.A? 2. What degrees did Sally Ride have? 3. Why was Bernie Goetz a hero in New York? 4. What was the Wheel of Fortune? 5. About how many veterans could be sleeping on the streets of America on any given night in the 1980's?
13: Bibliography: P1 "Sally Ride." 2011. Biography.com. 28 Apr 2011, 09:26 http://www.biography.com/articles/Sally-Ride-9458284. P2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_Fortune_(U.S._game_show) this page was last modified on 30 April 2011 at 21:41. P3 "Bernhard Goetz." 2011. Biography.com. 7 May 2011, 11:12 http://www.biography.com/articles/Bernhard-Goetz-578520. P4 "Aids." 1980's Lifestyles and Social Trends. Gale Cengage, 1996. eNotes.com. 2006. 29 May, 2011