Step 1: Students watch the DVD Ladysmith Black Mambazo “On Tip Toe”. Discuss how this traditional Zulu music was influenced by the politics of apartheid in South Africa.
Step 2: Then have students listen to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. Explain that this was written as a broad history lesson in the culture of America from the 40’s to the 80’s. Is there anything in the music that sounds like traveling through time?
Step 3: Give students the lyrics to the Billy Joel song. In small groups, have them research assigned segments of the piece to find out more about the history of that section. Report back to the class.
Step 4: Ask students to interpret the meaning of the word “Fire”. Does it have a dual meaning? If so, what is it? How would this song be a political statement based on what they now know from their research.
Step 5: Have students come back together and create a wordle of topics from the last year that have affected American culture.
Step 6: Using the wordle, have each small group write a stanza of lyrics that would address these items of cultural significance in a song.
Step 7: Combine the stanzas into an updated “We Didn’t Start the Fire” song.
Have students create a video documentary, similar to the Ladysmith DVD, about their songwriting process and the significance of their music to the culture of today. Give them a list of items they must address in their segments and grade based on clarity, depth and following directions.