[Ads-l] marching to the beat of a different drum

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Thu Nov 21 20:43:56 UTC 2019

I am curious about the origin of the phrase "marching to the beat of a different drum" (or "drummer").

The earliest solid-looking date for "different drum" in Google Books is 1975


R. Serge Denisoff _Solid Gold: The Popular Record Industry_ New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1975, ISBN 0-87855-586-2


_Modern Drummer_ Volume 4 includes the text "Between 1961 and 1965 Roy Haynes made some classic recordings with the John Coltrane Quartet which have just been released on a Coltrane record called, “To The Beat of A Different Drum."


_Hearings Before the Special Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service House of Representatives Ninety-Third Congress First Session on H. R. 3180 February 20 and 27, 1973" twice has the phrase "the beat of a different drummer", on page 30 referring to Seventh-day Adventist and on page 35referring to Henry David Thoreau <quote>"If a man does not keep pace with his companions," said Thoreau, "perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer"

The Thoreau quote can be confirmed by checking _Walden_ at


I remember hearing a pop song with lyrics including "he marches to the beat of a different drum" but I cannot recall what or when the song was.

I think (but I'm not sure) that I heard the expression from someone I worked for in 1970.


David Kemp _A Different Drummer: an ideas book from drama".   A snippet view on page 4 gives bibliographic data as "Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972". 


Robert H. Walker "A Different Drummer".  A snippet view shows "copyright 1958 by Robert H. Walker  Library of Congress Catalog Number 58-6249" but gives no other bibliographic data.

- Jim Landau

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