I was writing the beginning of the ending of the fifth first book when, before I realized it, I had been singing Will the Circle Be Unbroken? for over an hour. Hell, maybe a day? Week? It just crept up on me as I’ve been thinking through where I was going with this story.

Well, at least I thought I was singing, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

I went to quote a few of the lyrics in the final chapters for imagery & filler. Whether or not I keep them there is another story, but that’s not the point.

The point is that I quoted the song I knew, then went to go listen to the versions I thought I knew, only to find the versions were completely different.

What the Hell was I listening to all these years?

There are two versions: “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By).” The former is essentially the religious version. The latter is essentially the (semi) secular version.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” was written by Ada R. Habershon in 1907. It is a hymn. It was written first. It essentially depicts what Heaven will be like when you get there, if you get there. I was using their opening couplets:

“There are loved ones in the glory
Whose dear forms you often miss.
When you close your earthly story,
Will you join them in their bliss?”

Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)” is a secular version reworked by A. P. Carter, the famous Carter family – moreoreless the first family of country folk music. It depicts the loss of the singer’s mother, from death to the funeral. This version doesn’t cut any corners:

“Oh, I told the undertaker
Undertaker, please drive slow
For this body you are hauling
How I hate to see her go.”

Come to find out I was singing both versions at the same time. A.P. Carter added the “Lord” to the chorus.

Habershon’s chorus:

“Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
Is a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

A.P. Carter’s modification:

“Can the circle be unbroken
Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye
There’s a better home a’waitin’
In the sky, Lord, in the sky”

Singing the Lord’s name in the chorus had me switching between songs.

Here’s Johnny Cash singing this version with A.P. Carter’s daughter, June Carter (and, eventually,) Cash.



‘Shit you learn along the way.

Which version do you prefer?

Me, I like the original. Then again, I heard that one first.

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