Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Of the more than 50 people mentioned in Billy Joel hit, only five remain alive

The hit single We Didn’t Start the Fire introduced Doris Day, among other legendary figures and issues, to new audiences

Billy Joel in the music video for 1989's 'We Didn't Start the Fire'. Photo: YouTube 
Billy Joel in the music video for 1989's 'We Didn't Start the Fire'. Photo: YouTube 

Doris Day will certainly be remembered as an actress and singer with an impeccable resume in show business, but she will also forever be remembered as one of the many individuals mentioned by Billy Joel in his 1989 hit single, We Didn’t Start the Fire.

As millions who have heard the tune around the world are well aware, Day is in the very first line of the song which reached #1 in the US and charted around the world.

The song hit #1 shortly after its release, and has remained in the rotation of radio stations and minds around the world, cementing its status as a classic.

“Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray, South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe Dimaggio,” the rapid fire lyrics read.

Sadly, however, with Day’s passing, she joins the ranks of many singers, world leaders, and artists mentioned in Joel’s song who are no longer alive.

In fact, out of the 100 names (and places) mentioned in Joel’s song, only Queen Elizabeth II, Brigitte Bardot, Bob Dylan, Chubby Checker, Bernard Goetz (known to many as the subway vigilante), are among those who are still alive.

Some on Twitter noted they only knew of Day because Joel’s song, while others acknowledged her vast career.

According to the book, In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk About the Creative Process, Joel says he wrote the song when he turned 40, and looked back to the year he was born, 1949, to begin telling a story through to 1989.

In the book he also noted that it was one of the few times he decided to write the lyrics first and the music second.

“It’s one of the worst melodies I’ve ever written. I like the music though.”

Regardless of what Joel thinks of the melody, it’s safe to say his decision to reference Day in the song has seared her name in pop-culture history, and with every listen We Didn’t Start the Fire receives, Day lives on.

(FILES) This undated file photo shows US actress Doris Day (R) relaxing with US actor Rock Hudson (L). Day and Hudson starred in several romance/comedy Hollywood films in the 1960's. Doris Day, the US screen icon famed for her wholesome, girl-next-door appeal in a string of box office hits, died Monday, May 13, 2019 at age 97 her foundation said in a statement to US media. The Doris Day Animal Foundation said Day, who had suffered a bout of pneumonia, died at her California home, surrounded by friends and family, multiple news outlets reported. / AFP / HO / HO
Doris Day (R) relaxing with US actor Rock Hudson (L). Photo: AFP

Updated: May 14, 2019 01:06 PM

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