Broken Ties (I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes)
DESCRIPTION: "It would have been better for us both to have never In this wicked world never met." The singer recalls how the other once loved (her?); when she is dead, she asks if he will come and shed a tear on her grave
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (recording, Carter Family)
KEYWORDS: love betrayal death burial
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE,So)
REFERENCES (9 citations):
BrownII 156, "Broken Ties" (3 texts plus mention of 1 more)
BrownSchinhanIV 156, "Broken TIes" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Randolph , "How Sadly My Heart Yearns Toward You" (omitted from the second edition)
Fuson, p. 140, "Broken Vows" (1 text)
Cambiaire, p. 60, "Blue Eyes" (1 text)
MHenry-Appalachians, p. 167, "Blue Eyes" (1 text)
Neely, pp. 229-230, "The Broken Heart" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirschberg, _Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone: The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music_, Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 217-218, "(I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes)" (1 text)
Gene Autry, "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" OKeh 06648 /Columbia 36587, 1942; Columbia 20049, n.d.)
The Carter Family, "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" (Victor V-40089, 1929; Montgomery Ward M-4230, 1933) (ARC 35-09-23/Conqueror 8539, 1935; Vocalion 04442/OKeh 04442, 1938)
Denver Darling & his Texas Cowhands, "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" (Decca 46225, 1950)
Montana Slim [pseud. for Wilf Carter] "I'm Thinking Tonight of my Blue Eyes" (Bluebird [Canada] B-4735/Bluebird B-9032, 1942; Victor 20-2071, 1947; rec. 1941)
Saddle Tramps, "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" (Vocalion 04037, 1938)
Shelton & Fox, "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" (Decca 5184, 1936)
cf. "The Great Speckled Bird" (tune)
The Broken Engagement
NOTES: Paul Stamler suggests that we should call this song "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes." Certainly that's the version most of us know today, thanks to the Carter Family and all its spinoffs. It appears, however, that the majority of versions are called either "Broken Ties" or "Broken Vows." Of course, the whole family is rather amorphous; I could argue, for instance, for splitting off Fuson's "Broken Vows." As it is, I split it more than Roud, who also includes the "Forget You I Never May" family here.
Pre-Carter Family texts of this seem to lack the "Blue Eyes" chorus, but some later versions (e.g. the "C" text in Brown, from 1930) add it; there may be some sort of cause and effect.
D. K. Wilgus, in Paredes/Stekert, pp. 156-157, makes an interesting point about the "I'm Thinking Tonight of my Blue Eyes" version: it inspired and supplied the tune for two of the most influential songs in the history of pop country music: "The Wild Side of Life" and "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes." Plus "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," the 1952 Kitty Wells answer to "The Wild Side of Life." It's also close to the "The Great Speckled Bird." This was something that gave Ralph Peer, who owned the copyright to both "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" and "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," a lot of chances for copyright fun (Mazor, p. 239)..
Zwonitzer/Hirschberg, p. 217, tells that when the Carter Family was working on border radio in February 1939, Sara Carter one night announced that she was dedicating a performance of this song to Coy Bays, her one-time boyfriend who had been pushed to leave Clinch Mountain. They would, of course, soon reunite.
Sara didn't write the song for the purpose, of course; the Carters had first recorded their modified version of the traditional song a decade before. But it obviously gave it extra meaning. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Mazor: Barry Mazor, Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, Chicago Review Press, 2015
- Paredes/Stekert: Americo Paredes and Ellen J. Stekert, editors, The Urban Experience and Folk Tradition, American Folklore Society/University of Texas Press, 1971
- Zwonitzer/Hirschberg: Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirschberg, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone: The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music, Simon & Schuster, 2002
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