My husband and I have been continuing to watch the documentary. Country Music, by Kenneth Burns. Last night one of the songs mentioned was Will the Circle Be Unbroken. This popular Christian hymn was originally written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H Gabriel. The song is often recorded unattributed and, because of its age, has lapsed into the public domain. A. P Carter, of the Carter family wrote a reworked version of the song, intended as a funeral hymn. It was released in 1935 and became instantly popular. The Carter version uses the same music and the same verse structure but with different verse lyrics and a modified chorus.
Most touching to me, was an interview with an African-American musician who said this hymn was one of her grandmother’s favorites. Her grandmother trusted that family members sold into slavery and lost to one another would be reunited in heaven.
Here’s the Carter’s version of this plaintive hymn.