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Application of Billy Joel Song to History

Billy Joel's 20th century anthem,We Didn't Start the Fire, is a whirlwind tour of world events, many of which are encapsulated in the names of individuals. Beginning in 1949 with Harry Truman and ending in the commercialized Rock and roller cola wars of the late 80s, Joel's rock classic is intended to evoke a sense of bewilderment and energy, a cacophony of nonsense that belies an undeniable rhythm: the pulsing momentum of history. For the purposes of this discussion, three items listed in Joel's song will be pulled into relief from amidst the broader tapestry of figures and events. Beginning in 1953 with Joseph Stalin, stopping in 1963 with Malcolm X, and ending in 1974 with Watergate, a look at these noteworthy, landmark figures and incidents will perhaps help to put the latter half of the 20th century into perspective.

Joseph Stalin, the autocratic ruler of the former Soviet Union, died in 1953. Few men in history have cast a longer shadow or left a more lasting legacy than has Stalin. Infamous for crushing millions of his own people beneath the massive, grinding wheel of the Communist Party that he so completely controlled, Stalin also was responsible for the ômodernizationö of the USSR. The first of StalinÆs Five Year Plans for the USSR began as early as 1928, and the intention was clear: to develop heavy industryùsteel, chemical, electrical and manufacturing (Rose 14).

To accomplish his objective, Stalin instituted a process of collectivization. Seizing land from more than 10 million peasants, StalinÆs Red Army gunned down those that resisted, as the remainder was sent to collective farms and forced labor camps. Using the guise of class warfare to excuse and veil his ruthless tactics, StalinÆs purges claimed to be targeting ôrichö peasants or ôkulaksö (those who managed to retain land and livestock in spite of the collectivization purges); StalinÆs intended ôliquidation of the Kulaks as a classö p...

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Application of Billy Joel Song to History. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:37, August 09, 2020, from