Song Lyrics

The Fiddle And The Drum

by Joni Mitchell

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And so once again
My dear Johnny my dear friend
And so once again you are fightin' us all
And when I ask you why
You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall
Oh, my friend
How did you come
To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say I have turned
Like the enemies you've earned
But I can remember
All the good things you are
And so I ask you please
Can I help you find the peace and the star
Oh, my friend
What time is this
To trade the handshake for the fist

And so once again
Oh, America my friend
And so once again
You are fighting us all
And when we ask you why
You raise your sticks and cry and we fall
Oh, my friend
How did you come
To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say we have turned
Like the enemies you've earned
But we can remember
All the good things you are
And so we ask you please
Can we help you find the peace and the star
Oh my friend
We have all come
To fear the beating of your drum

© August 11, 1969; Siquomb Publishing Corp


Joni introduced the song this way on July 7, 1969 at the Mississippi River Festival:

"Ever since I heard that song [she had just finished singing 'Get Together' by Dino Valenti], I wanted to say something too. And because I'm a Canadian living in this country, I love this country (applause)... I do, no need to applaud for that it's really true. I enjoy all of the privileges of it and also when I go to Europe I'm treated like an American abroad which isn't so groovy. At first I used to say "oh but I'm Canadian" and flash my maple leaf at people. Then I said "no, no, no"... people are people and, well, I always get my foot in my mouth whenever I try to introduce this song because I always feel apologetic for the fact that I'm not a very political person because Canadians, of course, aren't very political, you know, they're always having sort of intramural sports up there - canoe races from one province to the other and things like that. And flag choosings and (laughter)...

"Even our Prime Minister isn't very much of a politician. I know some great Pierre Trudeau stories. I heard that when he was elected to office, when he went to the house where he lives in Ottawa that he pulled up in a sports car with a girl... (laughs, then crowd laughs)... that's a true story (more laughter). It's not very political, is it? (laughter) I also heard that he canoed to Cuba but that sounds a little far-fetched (laughter) I think that's kind of the super Pierre Trudeau story. My song's called The Fiddle and The Drum and it goes like this..."


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GoodOldRick on

I am a child of the 60s, now 63 years old. This album, and this song from it came out during the Vietnam War when I would see the bloody killing on the evening news every night; and the whole nation would hear the body counts, night after night. At the same time, they were building new houses in my neighborhood, and it was a far more relaxed time as far as security went. And so at night, many half finished houses would sit under the moonlit sky fully open. I'll never forget one night walking into one of those half finished houses, drinking a six pack under a full moon, (to give myself courage; it was difficult for me to sing when I was young) and then singing, complete from memory, The Fiddle And The Drum. My voice echoed through that empty half finished house, which became the most wonderful and perfect echo chamber. My voice had never sounded better in my life. I poured out my soul in that song, with tears streaming down my face. The song was so true and real for me, because I wanted to love my country, but my country had made it so damn hard to love it. Thank you Joni, for writing one of the best antiwar songs ever written. Your friend, and fan from afar, R.S.

WoodstockChild69 on

I get chills every time I hear this track! Just Joni's voice, it does not need anything else.

allegrawakest on

This song has haunted me for so many years. I'm finally going to be able to sing it live on 9-27-10 for our new, local independent radio station (WDRT) benefit party here in Viroqua, Wisconsin. This song, recorded in 1969 is just as relevant today as it was then. In a way that's sad, but in any case, it possesses such a stunning, brilliant melody. Even after all these years, by the end I am teary. Thank you, Joni. Thank you for all the catharsis. You are a healer in every sense of the word.

carmelrotem on

This song always gives me goosebumps.
the lyrics and the perfect acapella singing that emphasize tham ever better, and sends them right to the heart...
I am from Israel, and unfortunatly this song is very relevent to the situation my country is in.
Wish we will all find a way to trade the fist for the hanshake again.

cynthiamcg on

Joni, please don't "get out of the music business"
youre voice and song speak loud for morgellons sufferers. Most of all they comfort us. we would miss listening and anxiously waiting for something new.