Tag Archives: Gospel

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




Carter Family version

Wonder Stuff and Spirit of the West version



“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.


  • Most cover versions of the song use the alternate title Will the Circle be Unbroken.
  • “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” is a popular Christian hymn written by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H. Gabriel. The song is often recorded unattributed. Most of the chorus appears in “Daddy Sang Bass“.
  • In 1998 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • Almost all cover versions of the song use a straight 4/4 meter throughout, while the Carter Family recording from 1927 uses bars of 3/4 near the end of each verse and twice in the chorus.
  • Two versions of the hymn are featured in the soundtrack for the 2013 video game BioShock Infinite: a traditional choir version, performed by Maureen Murphy, and an acoustic version performed by Troy Baker (guitar) and Courtnee Draper, the voice actors of main characters Booker and Elizabeth, respectively. The lyrics – particularly the chorus – have particular poignancy in the context of the game, which not only has a literal “better home awaiting in the sky” as its setting, but the plot is ultimately centered around quantum mechanics and multiple worlds, and the notion that an awful process keeps repeating which the player character must stop.
  • The Carter Family were the first vocal group to become country music stars.