Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)
|"Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)"|
|Single by Carter Family|
|B-side||"Glory to the Lamb"|
|Genre||Country, American folk|
|Carter Family singles chronology|
"Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)" is the title of a country/folk song reworked by A. P. Carter from the hymn "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" by Ada R. Habershon and Charles H. Gabriel. The song's lyrics concern the death, funeral, and mourning of the narrator's mother.
The song first gained attention due to the Carter Family. The song has been covered by many groups and musicians including: Blind James Campbell, Bob Dylan, The Band, The Staple Singers, Clara Ward Singers, John Fahey, Roy Acuff, Joan Baez, The Chieftains, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Ralph Stanley, The Black Crowes, Kristin Hersh, John Lee Hooker, Bill Monroe, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Pentangle, Spacemen 3, Country Joe McDonald, John Statz, Spirit of the West with The Wonder Stuff, Mavis Staples, The Felice Brothers, Johnny Cash, Gregg Allman, the Neville Brothers Jeff Buckley, Moby, Agnes Chan, and New England Weather. Its refrain was incorporated into the Carl Perkins song "Daddy Sang Bass" and the Atlanta song "Sweet Country Music." It is primarily covered in gospel, bluegrass, and folk, but versions in other genres exist. Most cover versions of the song use the alternate title Will the Circle be Unbroken. In 1998 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Almost all cover versions of the song use a straight 4/4 meter throughout, while the Carter Family recording from 1927 uses bars of 3/4 near the end of each verse and twice in the chorus.
In 1988, springing from the Great Hudson River "Clearwater" Revivals (now referred to as Festivals) which Pete Seeger championed from the mid-1960s through the present, the second line of the chorus was rewritten and copyrighted by Cathy Winter, Betsy Rose, Marcia Taylor and Terry Dash as Rise Up Singing. This version has a more uplifting and forward looking message:
Will the circle be unbroken, by and by Lord by and by.
There's a better way to live now, we can have it if we try.
I was born down in the valley where the sun refused to shine
but now I'm climbing - up to the highlands - Gonna make all those mountains mine.
- Rise Up Singing, page 98