Careless Love

TITLE: Careless Love
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: sex, seduction, pregnancy, lament
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1911 (Journal of American Folklore)

Robert V. Wells in Life Flows On in Endless Song: Folk Songs and American History (Music in American Life) says, “Until 1880, when divorce became more acceptable, marriage ended primarily through death, or occasionally abandonment, so the choice of a spouse required special care. Careless Love could lead to all kinds of problems.” 

The story of the song, Careless Love, lies between the lines. “Once I wore my apron low” to the best of my knowledge means an apron that ties around the waist. When the woman narrator sings, “Now my apron strings don’t pin,” she’s saying her growing pregnancy is keeping her beau away. Her choice was “careless.”

According to Malcolm Douglas, in the Mudcat Discussion forum: “The tune is basically ‘The Sprig of Thyme‘, and ‘Careless Love‘ frequently includes floating verses familiar from songs like ‘Died For Love‘; so its antecedents are essentially British, though re-made in America with new stylistic influences.”

Vance Randolf
Vance Randolf

In the United States the song can be traced back to 1880. Vance Randolph collected a version in 1948 that was learned in 1880.  Alan Lomax says, “In my opinion mountain songs like Careless Love provided the mould into which the Delta singers poured their free, bluesy hollers.” W.C. Handy writes about Careless Love and his composition Loveless Love in his autobiography, Father of the Blues. 

“Loveless Love is another of my songs of which one part has an easily traceable folk ancestry. It was based on the Careless Love melody that I had played first in Bessemer in 1892 and that had since become popular all over the South. 

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Careless Blues

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download

LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Odetta

Careless Love

Love, oh, love, oh careless love,
Love, oh, love, oh careless love,
Love, oh, love, oh careless love,
You see what love has done to me.

I love my mama and papa too,
I love my mama and papa too,
I love my mama and papa too,
I’d leave them both to go with you.

What, oh what, will mama say,
What, oh what, will mama say,
What, oh what, will mama say,
When she learns I’ve gone astray.

Once I wore my apron low,
Once I wore my apron low,
Once I wore my apron low,
I couldn’t scarcely keep you from my door.

Now my apron strings don’t pin,
Now my apron strings don’t pin,
Now my apron strings don’t pin,
You pass my door and you don’t come in.

SOURCES:

  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943, John Goodrich and Robert M.W. Dixon, Storyville Publications and Company, London Revised 1969.

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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