Worship Wednesday | Will the Circle be Unbroken?

My friend George, who I’ve known for a very long time, and I were bantering back and forth about the song “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” after I’d sent him a video of the late Gregg Allman performing it with an ensemble of great singers and musicians.

Great version on his solo album from ’73, too. One of the best versions of that song, fo sho. That song is possibly the greatest song of all time, too, Herr Rainer Bob! Easily top “hunnerd”!

George “LowDog” Savage

Turns out, the history behind “Will the Circle be Unbroken” is fairly interesting. Due to its age, the song rights lapsed into public domain and therefore is often recorded unattributed. However, the original lyrics were written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music composed by Charles H. Gabriel.

Ada R. Habershon was an English Christian hymnist who, apart from writing her own hymns, translated hymns into German and wrote numerous hymns for R.A. Torrey and Charles M. Alexander on their evangelistic tour in the early 1900s. Legend has it she wrote over 200 hundred hymns just for them.

For his part, Charles H. Gabriel is thought to have composed over 7,000 songs, many of which can still be found in 21st century Christian hymnals. Gabriel was a prolific gospel songwriter who also wrote under several pseudonyms.


The original lyrics to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” written by Ada R. Habershon go something like this:

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?

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

In the joyous days of childhood/ Oft they told of wondrous love/ Pointed to the dying Saviour/ Now they dwell with Him above.

You remember songs of heaven/ Which you sang with childish voice. / Do you love the hymns they taught you,/ Or are songs of earth your choice?

You can picture happy gath’rings / Round the fireside long ago,/ And you think of tearful partings/ When they left you here below.

One by one their seats were emptied. /One by one they went away./ Now the family is parted./ Will it be complete one day?


A.P. Carter, patriarch of the renowned seminal country music group the Carter Family, reworked the Habershon/Gabriel version as a funeral hymn. Carter’s version contains the same music and verse structure but features a revamped chorus alongside new lyrics in the verses. Additionally, Carter modified the title from “Will” to “Can.”


Listen to the Carter Family recording of “Can the Circle Be Unbroken?” here.


My friend George
(sporting a ‘stach only a mother could love)

Over the years, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” has been recorded by numerous artists. It is so well known that it was inducted into the Grammy Music Hall of Fame in 1988.

Below are the lyrics most of us are more familiar hearing:


Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I was standing by my window
On one 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 a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

I said to that undertaker
Undertaker please drive slow
For this lady you are carrying
Lord, I hate to see her go

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Oh, I followed close behind her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in the grave

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

I went back home Lord, my home was lonesome
Missed my mother, she was gone
All of my brothers, sisters crying
What a home so sad and lone

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky


Here are 3 other versions of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” recorded by various artists that I found on YouTube recently:

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (2012)
June and Johnny Cash (date unknown)
Amos Lee (circa 2017)

The story behind the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” is as deep as the Amazon River is wide. Do you recall the first time you ever heard it?

In my bantering about with my friend George, aka LowDog or Merle, I recollected first hearing this popular gospel song back sometime in the 1970s. My best guess is that I heard either the Johnny Cash version (Dad was a big fan of the Man in Black) or possibly the version recorded on their big 1972 record “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

Us attending Zach Williams in Longview, Texas (2022)

I pray all is well with you and yours. I hope you get to listen to some music you love too because good music makes everything better.

Until my next post…May God bless you and may God continue to bless America!

The Devotional Guy™

Gregg Allman & Friends
#bgbg2 #BibleGateway

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I believe in order to experience life the way God intended, you and I must receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. This gift from God is available to all who ask. God has a plan and a purpose for your life.

Will you personally receive the gift of eternal life so that you can experience the total forgiveness from your sins that come through believing in the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

6 Comments

  1. I don’t remember ever hearing that. I will have to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Please do. It’s a great song. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blogpost. Blessings.

    Like

  3. Beth Alisan says:

    Thanks Rainer for providing the history of a much enjoyed song. I have no recall of when I first heard it. My Dad loves country music so chances were I heard it as a kid riding somewhere in his truck. My favorite rendition is by Randy Travis.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not familiar with this song. It brought tears to my eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesomeness. Randy T is great! I’m grateful that you took time to read my post and share your thoughts.

    Like

  6. Yes, it can sure do that. Thanks for reading my post!

    Liked by 1 person

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