Ethnography of Fiddle/Soldiers Joy

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Soldier's Joy is a fiddle tune, classified as a reel or country dance.[1] It is popular in the American fiddle canon, in which it is touted as "an American classic" [2] but traces its origin to Scottish fiddling traditions. [3] and Irish fiddle traditions. It has been played in Scotland for over 200 years and Robert Burns used it for the first song of his cantata 'The Jolly Beggars'.According to documentation at the United States Library of Congress, [4] it is "one of the oldest and most widely distributed tunes" [5]and is rated in the top ten most-played Old Time Fiddle tune and is dancable. According to the Illinois Humanities Center, the tune dates as early as the 1760s. [6] In spite of its upbeat tempo and catchy melody, the term "soldier's joy" has a much darker meaning than is portrayed by the tune. Opinion has it that this term eventually came to refer to the combination of whiskey, beer, and morphine used by Civil War soldiers, presumably for pain relief. As the lyrics state:

Melody as basis for song[edit | edit source]

Like many pure tunes with ancient pedigree, the melody of Soldier's Joy has been used as a basis for construction of songs, which, unlike pure tunes, have lyrics.

Civil War era and post-bellum cultural references[edit | edit source]

According to the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), the tune came to represent substance abuse during the Civil War. This is corroborated in concurring secondary sources.

Gimme some of that Soldier’s Joy, you know what I mean

I don’t want to hurt no more my leg is turnin’ green[7][8]

The IHIC version is as follows:

Twenty-five cents for whiskey, twenty-five cents for beer

Twenty-five cents for morphine, get me out of here.

Chorus: I'm my momma's pride and joy

I'm my momma's pride and joy

I'm my momma's pride and joy

Sing you a song called the soldier's joy.

Country[edit | edit source]

Twenty five cents for whiskey, 25 cents for beer Twenty five cents for morphine get me out of here

cho: I'm my momma's pride and joy (3X)

Sing you a song called the soldier's joy

Grasshopper sitting on a sweet potato vine (3X)

Along come a chicken and he's say your mine.

I'm gonna get you there don't you want to go (3X) All for the soldoer's joy

Chicken in a bread pan scratching that dough

Granny does your dog bite no child no


All for the soldier's joy [10]


External links[edit | edit source]


Skillet Lickers 1929 film clip with commentary [12]

Henry Reed Library of Congress mp3

Solo Fiddle version 1

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ref name= LOC|Library of Congress|American Memory|Soldier's Joy An American Classic|
  2. LOC
  3. ref name=Learn Scot|
  4. Library odf Congress American Memory|
  6. ref name= IHC|Soldier's Joy"|Performed by Mr. Charles Wright|Recorded by Professor McIntosh|August 1954 |url=
  8. Skillet Lickers
  9. ref name=Skillet Lickers|"The Skillet Lickers were very influential in the 1920s-30s building the bridge that connected Appalachian folk music to modern popular music and gave respectability to the formerly ridiculed "hillbilly" music. "-Liner note posted by preservationhall01|Postged May 1, 2009|Other lyrics are "25 cents for the morphine that will take me away from here"|Gid Tanner & The Skillet Lickers-Soldiers Joy-1929(w/film clip)|
  10. Note: These lyrics are well known to fiddlers and to the public as 'quoted' in Charlie Daniels' song Devil Went Down to Georgia|source=A TRADITIONAL MUSIC LIBRARY|"site contains only public domain"|
  11. IHC
  12. Skillett Lickers