Will the Circle Be Unbroken

DESCRIPTION: The singer witnesses his/her mother being carried off for burial. Her example is praised. The singer wonders if they will meet again: "Will the circle be unbroken, By and by, Lord, by and by? There's a better home a-waiting In the sky, Lord, in the sky."
AUTHOR: Words: Ada R. Habershon?
EARLIEST DATE: Original text and tune copyright 1908; later tune: 1927 (recording, Metropolitan Quartet)
KEYWORDS: religious death funeral burial mother
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Randolph 635, "Can the Circle Be Unbroken?" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 440-442, "Can the Circle Be Unbroken?" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 635)
Roberts-SangBranchSettlers, #47, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 371, "Can the Circle Be Unbroken?" (1 text)

Roud #3409
Roy Acuff, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Okeh 05587/Vocalion 05587, 1940; Conqueror 9671, 1941; Perfect 16-101, n.d.; rec. 1940)
Alphabetical Four, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" (Decca 7601, 1939; rec. 1938)
Clarence Ashley, Clint Howard et al, Jean Ritchie, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (on WatsonAshley01)
Bud & James Billings [pseuds. for Frank Luther and, perhaps, Carson Robison], "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Bluebird B-6406, 1936; rec. 1928)
Brown's Ferry Four, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (King 530, 1946)
Johnny Brown, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (on USFlorida01)
Rev. J. C. Burnett, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Columbia 14385-D, 1928)
The Carter Family, "Can the Circle Be Unbroken" (Conqueror 8529, 1935) (Columbia 20268, prob. c. 1946)
Jimmy Collier & the Movement Singers, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (on VoicesCiv)
Hallelujah Trio, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" (London 16020, 1950)
Doc Hopkins, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Radio 1411, n.d.)
Mississippi John Hurt, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (on MJHurt05)
Frank & James McCravy, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Brunswick 194, 1928; Jewel 5907/Oriole 1907/Perfect 12601/Challenge 876, 1930; Conqueror 7794, 1931; rec. 1927) (OKeh 45433, 1930)
William McEwan, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" (Columbia A1364, 1913; rec. c. 1912)
Metropolitan Quartet, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" (Edison 52111, 1927)
Monroe Brothers, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Montgomery Ward M-7142, 1937)
Morris Brothers, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken Bye And Bye?" (Bluebird B-8103, 1939)
Silver Leaf Quartette of Norfolk, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (OKeh 8777/ARC 6-12-63/Vocalion 04395, 1930)
Frank Stamps & his All-Star Quartet, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Montgomery Ward M-8194, 1939)
Frank Welling & John McGhee, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Champion 16035, 1930; Champion 45123 [as Welling Family Trio], c. 1935)
Westbrook Conservatory Entertainers, "Will That Circle Be Unbroken" (Broadway 8194, late 1920s)
J. B. Whitmire's Blue Sky Trio, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken There" (Bluebird B-8512, 1940)

cf. "Since I Laid My Burden Down" (tune)
NOTES [157 words]: According to Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, the original version of this had words by Ada R. Habershon and music by Charles Gabriel and was published in 1907/8. That version, however, had a completely different tune from the familiar Carter Family version; the song has probably been subjected to recensional handling -- possibly by A. P. Carter.
Those wishing to see the original words may find them, e.g., in Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul, Book 2: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories, Nelson, 2004, pp. 258-259, The chorus lyrics differ only very slightly from the Carter version, but the verse lyrics are entirely different.
Barry Mazor, Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, Chicago Review Press, 2015, p. 179, notes an interesting irony: The first (unreleased) Carter Family recording of this song was recorded at the very first Carter Family session after Sara Carter moved out on A. P. Carter. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
File: R635

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.