Billy Joel’s 1989 release We Didn’t Start The Fire is iconic. Who hasn’t listened to the song and been inspired to research a little history? But, it’s just a tad outdated. In fact, the lyrics could have used an update within about two months of its debut, in September of ’89, when the Berlin Wall fell.
If only there were someone who had the knowledge and skill to revise the song. That certainly leaves me out, but… Wait a moment. I have ChatGPT.
I gave ChatGPT this simple prompt:
Update the lyrics to Billy Joel’s song *We Didn’t Start the Fire* to cover events that have happened since 1990.
And this, dear reader, is what I got.
Certainly! Here’s an updated version of the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that covers events that have occurred since 1990:
Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela, Gulf War in Arabia, Yugoslavia, breakup starts, apartheid torn apart. Internet, World Wide Web, Dot-com boom, tech is fed, Hubble Space Telescope, cloning sheep, a scientific feat. O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown, trial that had the whole world shown, Princess Diana's tragic fate, mourned across United Kingdom's states. Rwandan genocide, Bosnian war, conflicts we can't ignore, Tiananmen Square, protests flare, students standing, hope and despair. Chorus: We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No, we didn't light it But we tried to fight it Osama bin Laden, 9/11, towers fall, a living hell, War on Terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, it's all began. Hurricane Katrina's wrath, devastating aftermath, Social media's rise, Facebook connecting our lives. Obama, first black president, hope and change, a sentiment, Arab Spring, uprisings spread, dictators faced unrest ahead, Brexit vote, EU divide, populist movements on the rise, Climate change, urgent call, Paris Accord, global goal. Chorus: We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No, we didn't light it But we tried to fight it Pandemic strikes, COVID-19, worldwide crisis unforeseen, Lockdowns, masks, social distance, seeking vaccines, science's persistence, Black Lives Matter, racial strife, demanding justice, change in life, Protests, voices loud and clear, fighting for equality right here. SpaceX, private space race, exploring stars, beyond Earth's embrace, Climate crisis, urgent need, renewable energy to succeed, Digital revolution, AI, automation, shaping our days, Streaming platforms, binge and play, entertainment's changing ways. Chorus: We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No, we didn't light it But we tried to fight it
Though this version covers events since 1990, it is important to note that it may not include every significant event or reflect all perspectives. The song’s original intent was to capture the rapid pace of historical events, and this updated version attempts to continue that spirit.
Admittedly, it could be improved. And I didn’t look up the date of every event, but I know it got Tiananmen Square wrong because that happened in April of 1989, before the song was initially released. But still, I’m just a little gobsmacked. In fact, this reminds me of an amusing anecdote that happened to me in college. It was 1997 and we had just gotten Ethernet installed in our dorm room. I’ve always been a bit of a computer geek—I had my first email address in 1987—and the hot new tech was this thing called MP3.
I knew how to find FTP servers and log in to download files. This was pre-Napster, or at least I hadn’t heard of it yet. I was hanging out with my roommate, Tim, and his girlfriend, Sara, showing them how to download music. They’re having a good time coming up with songs and seeing if I can find them.
Tim asks, “Oh, how about We Didn’t Start The Fire?”
Before the song we were listening to was over I had We Didn’t Start The Fire downloaded and queued it up.
“No way,” said Sara. “That’s so cool. You can just listen to any song you want, at any time.” (Remember, this is 1997. Pandora wouldn’t launch until EIGHT years later.)
This event sticks with me because it illustrated concretely to me that the Internet was making any information you could imagine available at any time.
As we’re listening to the song Tim says, “I wish I had the lyrics to this.”
I used AltaVista to find a page with the lyrics and then started singing the last few stanzas along with Billy Joel. Both Tim and Sara were amazed. Within minutes of their request, I could play just about any song they could think of, and within seconds I could have the accompanying lyrics.
And now, here we are today. While working, Google Music streamed We Didn’t Start The Fire—because Google knows me so well. I had a random thought: I wonder what this song would be like if Billy Joel wrote a sequel.
ChatGPT created the song in less time than it took me to write the prompt. The Internet has gone from making any information available at any time to creating new information for you at any time. We are in uncharted waters.
…Wait a moment! ChatGPT didn’t include anything about the RunPee app. WTF?
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Creator and developer of the RunPee app. When something doesn’t work right in the app it’s pretty much his fault. 🙂
Aspiring author. Would like to finish his “Zombie Revelations” trilogy if he could break away for working on RunPee and the cottage he’s building for RunPee Mom.