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"Careless Love" is a traditional song, with several popular blues versions. The lyrics vary, but usually speak of the heartbreak brought on by "careless love". Frequently, the narrator threatens to kill his or her wayward lover:
Love, oh love, oh careless love
You fly to my head like wine
You've ruined the life of many a poor girl
And you nearly wrecked this life of mine
"Careless Love" was one of the best known pieces in the repertory of the Buddy Bolden band in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the very start of the 20th century; and it has remained a jazz standard and blues standard. Hundreds of recordings have been made in folk, blues, jazz, country, and pop styles; versions include those by Bessie Smith, Ottilie Patterson, Pete Seeger, and George Lewis. Big Joe Turner recorded it several times over his long career. T. Texas Tyler recorded a version in 1946 for 4-Star Records.
Fats Domino made a recording of it in 1951, and it has also been sung by Eddy Arnold, Entrance, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961), Eartha Kitt, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Dave Van Ronk, Lead Belly, Odetta, Lee Wiley, Janis Joplin, Siouxsie Sioux, Suzy Bogguss, Joan Baez, Ray Charles, Ace Cannon, Ronnie Lane, Dr. John, Madeleine Peyroux, Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash, Frankie Laine, Skip James, Brownie McGhee, Snooks Eaglin, Harry Connick Jr., French composer and clarinettist Jean-Christian Michel and Italian songwriter and singer Lucio Dalla in his debut single in 1964 and Hugh Laurie on his 2013 album Didn't It Rain.
W. C. Handy's "Loveless Love"
W. C. Handy's song "Loveless Love" uses the familiar melody of "Careless Love". The lyrics compare loveless love to synthetic goods and artificial food:
Oh love oh love oh loveless loveHas set our heart on goal-less goals
From milkless milk and silkless silk
We are growing used to soul-less souls
Such grafting times we never saw
That’s why we have a pure food law
In everything we find a flaw
Even love oh love oh loveless love
Handy's composition tells a love story, rather than the original story line of a tragic death. The death referenced in the older song was the son of a Kentucky governor. Handy copyrighted "Careless Love" in 1926.
In popular culture
- In The 78 Project Movie, John C. Reilly and Tom Brosseau perform Careless Love, recording direct to 78rpm disk.
- Robert Lowell quoted "Careless Love" in his poem "Skunk Hour."
- In the sitcom Melissa & Joey, "Careless Love" was Mel Burke's favorite song.
- "Careless Love" was being performed by Candice Marie and Keith, when Honky and Finger first arrive at the campsite in the television film Nuts in May by Mike Leigh.
- The song was featured in the movie Happy, Happy (2010), Norway's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards.
- Stephen King includes a version of "Careless Love" in the Dark Tower novel Wizard and Glass.
- It was played multiple times on the HBO television series Treme by various cast members, and particularly on the last episode by Lucia Micarelli. Also, the sixth episode of season three is titled Careless Love.
- Robert Heinlein facetiously quotes the lyric in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls with respect to a female character begetting a child out of wedlock.
- In the 1985 film The Color Purple directed by Steven Spielberg. (Novel written in 1982 by Alice Walker). On Color Purple soundtrack - Quincy Jones.
- Final song played over the montage in the final episode of the HBO television series [The Deuce] season 1, episode 8.
- Scarborough, Dorothy. "Coffee in the Gourd: The Blues As Folk-Songs, by Dorothy Scarborough". Sacred Texts. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- Dance, Daryl Cumber, ed. (2003). From My People: 400 years of African American Folklore (1 ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 116, 725. ISBN 0-393-32497-4.
- "Going the Distance". Melissa & Joey. Season 1. Episode 23. August 24, 2011. ABC Family.