1001 Songs Challenge,  1930s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #13: Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By) (1935)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


The Carter Family – Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By) (1935)

Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)

” 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.


We leave behind the sunshine of Hawaii to return to the US and immerse ourselves not just in the Great Depression but in a spot of country music too. The Carter Family – made up of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara, and sister-in-law, Maybelle – were considered among the earliest country music artists. A.P. was the songwriter, while Sara sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar with Maybelle providing harmony and playing the lead guitar.

The song is a very sombre one once again. I feel like most songs on this list so far have been sad. This one focuses on the final journey of the narrator’s mother as they make the long journey down the road to her funeral. The narrator follows behind the coffin and beseeches the driver to take it slowly, out of respect or to delay the final goodbye is open to debate. In the end the song talks of a house minus one family member and now painfully empty without them.

I recognised the title to this song when I first started reading though I can’t recall where I would have heard it before. It’s been covered many times so I have likely heard another rendition somewhere over the years. The lyrics capture the pain and grief of going to a funeral, particularly when it is a family member. There is a religious element to the song and though the narrator is saying farewell to their mother they take comfort in their faith and what it promises after death.


Favourite song so far:

Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – Minnie the Moocher (1931)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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