“We Didn’t Start the Fire” vs. Its 21st Birthday Update


Children of the ’80s, prepare to feel old: It’s been nearly 21 years since Billy Joel’s wildly referential, four-decade-spanning magnum opus “We Didn’t Start the Fire” dropped. Since then, there have been tons of tributes, from lowbrow (College Humor’s computer-nerd parody “We Didn’t Start the Flame War“) to high art (The Bruce High Quality Foundation‘s installation piece that loops the song and borrows its title).

But today, the Fader posted a version that may become our favorite: King Charles, who just won the International Songwriters Competition, has done an updated cover. Unlike the original, which covers American pop culture and politics from 1949 (the year of Joel’s birth) to 1989, the new version takes on 21st-century issues and icons. After the jump, watch both videos (simultaneously, side by side!) and follow along as we compare their points of reference.

YouTube Doubler

Femme fatale Billy Joel — Marilyn Monroe King Charles — Kate Moss

Sports hero Billy Joel — Joe DiMaggio King Charles — David Beckham

Inspirational American president Billy Joel — Kennedy King Charles — Obama

Political outrage Billy Joel — “JFK blown away, what else do I have to say?” King Charles — “Labour government, you embarrassed us all”

Musical genres Billy Joel — punk rock, heavy metal, British Beatlemania King Charles — New rave

Peace and love Billy Joel — Woodstock King Charles — “Love is just a hippie notion”

Gay icons Billy Joel — Liberace King Charles — “Tom Cruise is [bleep]”

TV show Billy Joel — Peyton Place King Charles — The X Factor

Technology Billy Joel — television, birth control King Charles — Facebook

Drugs Billy Joel — crack King Charles — ketamine, ecstasy

Environmental issues Billy Joel — hypodermic needles on beaches King Charles — climate change

British monarchy Billy Joel — “Britain’s got a new queen” King Charles — “I’m still loyal to the queen, and she’s still loyal to you and me”

Russian/Soviet leaders Billy Joel — Khruschev, Josef Stalin King Charles — Putin

Folkies Billy Joel — Dylan King Charles — Laura Marling

Foreign conflicts Billy Joel — “Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan” King Charles — “troops to Afghanistan”

Did we miss any other interesting parallels? And which era’s fire would you have preferred to burn in: Joel’s or King Charles’?