The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The thought just materialized in our head one morning:

“Go and find out why I named my book ‘The Fire Next Time.'”

Since the voice spoke in the first person and only one person we know of has a book entitled “The Fire Next Time” it seems a logical conclusion that the author in question was none other than James Baldwin.

Baldwin’s book has two letters: one to his nephew, also named James, another to

With that we went to find out the answer. It was fairly easy to ascertain. “The Fire Next Time” is a lyric from the song “Mary Don’t You Weep.” We heard it played repeatedly in our youth. The Aretha Franklin version to be sure.

But ReRe’s version made no mention of “The Fire Next Time.” Dave Marsh’s notes for Bruce Springsteen’s “Seegar Sessions” claim that not only is the notion of “the fire next time” potent folklore, but that the book got it’s title from the song. The lyric is described as being apocryphal.

The lyric may be full of doubt, but 2 Peter 3 gives a different perspective. Verse 6 explains the condition that connects the song to Noah:

Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

Then the next verse predicts the fire next time:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Two bible verses. One speaks of “the world,” “then.” The other speaks of “the earth,” “now” and “fire.”

The original lyrics give a parallel to the verses from 2 Peter, despite opinions to the contrary.

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time