You listened to this song in class today. I played it for no other reason than that I liked it and wanted to share it with you. The lyrics cover all the major events and icons of Billy Joel’s life, and you may not recognize many of them, but I guarantee that if you trace each one of them you will learn a lot about American history by the time you reach the end of the song.
Most of you have heard Hosan Leong’s parody of this song, and say that you identify with it because it deals with concepts and events that you are familiar with. This is understandable, especially since Leong’s version is humorous, while Joel’s original is serious and makes a very strong statement.
My personal observation is that in Singapore we tend to use humour as our main form of expression- defence, stress-relief, self-expression and even political viewpoints. I am not sure why this is, or how it evolved, but I think at the root of the phenomenon may be the general lack of language ability of Singaporeans. There are a few people with a good command of English, but the vast majority do not achieve any significant level of intellectual competence in the language. (Note- I am not referring to fluency, which many do have.) This naturally limits the ways in which ideas can be conveyed by them and to them.
Here is a link that you can check out to find out more about Billy Joel’s song:
There is even a list of parodies of the song, and Leong’s ‘We Live in Singapura’ is listed there. I guess it is true then- imitation must be the sincerest form of flattery. The fact that so many have copied the style and tune of ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ is testimony to the universality of the song. Perhaps one day, instead of just parodying and copying other people’s work, Singaporeans will be able to produce something original. Maybe one of you… 😛