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"We Didn't Start The Fire": World Headlines, 1949-1989

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Social Studies +2 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

"We Didn't Start the Fire" is a song by Billy Joel. Its lyrics include brief, rapid-fire allusions to more than 100 headline events between 1949, the year of Joel's birth, and 1989, when the song was released. This topical collection and image gallery represents references in the song. What makes these events headlines? What events does Joel leave out? How do these resources reflect the headlines, ideas, and concerns addressed by Joel? 

Harry Truman

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Red China

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Johnnie Ray

National Portrait Gallery

South Pacific

National Museum of American History

Walter Winchell

National Portrait Gallery

Joe DiMaggio

National Museum of American History

Studebaker

National Museum of American History

Television

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

North Korea, South Korea

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Marilyn Monroe

National Portrait Gallery

Rosenbergs

National Portrait Gallery

H-Bomb

National Museum of American History

Sugar Ray

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Brando

National Portrait Gallery

The King and I

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Catcher in the Rye

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

Eisenhower

National Portrait Gallery

Vaccine

National Museum of American History

England's got a new queen

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Marciano

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Liberace

National Museum of American History

Santayana goodbye

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Joseph Stalin

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Malenkov

National Portrait Gallery

Nasser

National Portrait Gallery

Prokofiev

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Rockefeller

National Portrait Gallery

Campanella

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Communist Bloc

National Air and Space Museum

Roy Cohn

National Portrait Gallery

Juan Peron

National Portrait Gallery

Toscanini

National Museum of American History

Dacron

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Dien Bien Phu Falls

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Rock Around the Clock

National Portrait Gallery

James Dean

National Postal Museum

Brooklyn's got a winning team

National Portrait Gallery

Peter Pan

National Museum of American History

Elvis Presley

National Museum of American History

Disneyland

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Bardot

Archives of American Art

Alabama

National Portrait Gallery

Khruschev

Catalog of American Portraits

Princess Grace

Smithsonian Channel

Trouble in the Suez

National Museum of African Art

Little Rock

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Pasternak

National Portrait Gallery

Mickey Mantle

National Portrait Gallery

Kerouac

National Portrait Gallery

Sputnik

National Air and Space Museum

Bridge on the River Kwai

National Portrait Gallery

Charles De Gaulle

National Portrait Gallery

Children of Thalidomide

Smithsonian Magazine

Buddy Holly

National Postal Museum

Space Monkey

National Air and Space Museum

Mafia

National Portrait Gallery

Castro

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Edsel is a no-go

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

U-2

National Air and Space Museum

Chubby Checker

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Psycho

National Portrait Gallery

Belgians in the Congo

National Postal Museum

Hemingway

National Portrait Gallery

Dylan

Smithsonian Channel

Berlin

National Museum of American History

Bay of Pigs Monument Invasion

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

British Beatlemania

National Portrait Gallery

Ole Miss

National Portrait Gallery

John Glenn

National Museum of American History

Liston beats Patterson

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Pope Paul

National Postal Museum

Malcolm X

National Museum of African American History and Culture

JFK blown away

Smithsonian Channel

Birth Control

National Museum of American History

Ho Chi-Minh

National Portrait Gallery

Richard Nixon back again

National Portrait Gallery

Moonshot

National Air and Space Museum

Woodstock

National Postal Museum

Watergate

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Reagan

National Portrait Gallery

Palestine

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sally Ride

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Bernie Goetz

National Portrait Gallery

China's under martial law

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

Rock and Roller Cola Wars

National Air and Space Museum