Breedloves's Folk Songs


“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” was composed circa 1906 (my gospel hymnbooks are at
another location, so I can’t verify the exact year). The composer was Charles H. Gabriel
and the words were written by Ada R. Habershon. The song was lifted by the Carter
Family, with words added about the mother and the hearse, etc.
I have no idea how so many have gotten away with helping themselves to this song, but
so it goes. Vance Randolph, in “Ozark Folksongs,” vol. 4, has a shortened version of “Can
the Circle Be Unbroken,” which he says “is a favorite with the Pentecostal or Holy Roller
singers in Missouri and Arkansas.” His version was collected in 1941, thus may have
been heard on the radio or taken from a songbook.
I was standing by my window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home awaiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky
Well I told the undertaker
Undertaker please drive slow
For the body that you are hauling
Lord, I hate to see her go
Well I followed close behind her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in her grave
Went back home, Lord, oh so lonesome
Since my mother she was gone
All my brothers, sisters crying
What a home so sad and ‘lone