History

Let's look at the history of Careless Love and different lyrics. Much of this information is found at The Mudcat Discussion forum. Here's the site: http://www.mudcat.org/threads.cfm

According to Malcolm Douglas: "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."

In the US the song can be traced back to 1880. Vance Randolph collected a version in 1948 that was learned in 1880. WC Handy writes about Careless Love and Loveless Love in his autobiography, Father of the Blues (Originally published by New York: Macmillan 1941, the below excerpt from the Da Capo Press paperback version pp 147 - 149):

"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. In Henderson I was told that the words of Careless Love were based on a tragedy in a local family, and one night a gentleman of that city's tobacco-planter aristocracy requested our band to play and sing this folk melody, using the following words:

You see what Careless Love has done,
You see what Careless Love has done
You see what Careless Love has done,
It killed the Governor's only son.

We did our best with these lines and then went into the second stanza:

Poor Archie didn't mean no harm,
Poor Archie didn't mean no harm,
Poor Archie didn't mean no harm

-But there the song ended. The police stepped in and stopped us. The song, they said, was a reflection on two prominent families. Careless Love had too beautiful a melody to be lost or neglected, however, and I was determined to preserve it.

[. . .]Having created a vogue for Careless Love, which John Niles calls Kelly's Love in his book of folk songs, I proposed to incorporate it in a new song with the verse in the three-line blues form. That week I went to Chicago, and while there I sat in Brownlee's barber shop and wrote Loveless Love, beginning with "Love is like a gold brick in a bunko game." There I wrote the music and made an orchestration which I took next door to Erskin Tate in the Vendome Theatre. His orchestra played it over, and it sounded all right. A copy was immediately sent to the printers.

Without waiting to receive a printed copy, however, I taught Loveless Love to Alberta Hunter, and she sang it at the Dreamland caberet. It made a bull's-eye. Before Alberta reached my table on the night she introduced the song, her tips amounted to sixty-seven dollars. A moment later I saw another lady give her twelve dollars for "just one more chorus." I knew then and there that we had something on our hands and the later history of the song bore this out."

WC Handy's Loveless Love Katherine Handy - Loveless Love is on YouTube. "This is one of the earliest recordings (Jan., 1922 for Paramount) of this moving composition by William Christopher Handy. In spite of the relatively poor sound quality, this song is obviously brilliantly performed by his daughter Katherine and Handy's Memphis Blues Orchestra, directed by W. C. Handy."

I've transcribed some of the words. The last verse surprisingly is the same as the bluegrass "Free Little Bird" which as I recall was derived from a 1800s parlor song Kitty Clyde. Handy's orchestra plays a latin beat throughout. Missing is the fourth verse which I had trouble hearing easily- anyone?

Loveless Love- WC Handy 1921

Love is like a hydrant turns off and on,
Like some friendships when your money's gone.
Love stands in with the loan sharks,when your heart's in throngs.

It I had some strong wings like an aeroplane,
Had some broad wings like an aeroplane.
I would fly away forever,
Never to return again.

Oh love, oh love, oh loveless love
Has said our hearts are goldless gold.
From dreamless dreams and schemeless schemes
How we wreck our love boats on the shoals.

(missing this verse)

If I were a little bird,
I'd fly from tree to tree.
I'd build my nest way up in the air,
Where the bad boys wouldn't bother me.

Here is the additioanl verse Handy mentions in his autobiography. It's not on the UTube recording.

Love is like a gold brick, in a bunko game,
Like some bank note, with a bogus name;
Both have caused many a downfall,
Love has done the same.

Compare this to Billie Holiday's "Loveless Love." Lyrics are from an on-line source (not sure of accuracy) that I edited.

Loveless Love W.C. Handy (Billie Holiday Version)

Love is like a hydrant turns off and on,
Like some friendships when your money's gone.
Love stands in with the loan sharks,
When your heart's in throngs.

It I had some strong wings like an aeroplane
Had some broad wings like an aeroplane.
I would fly away forever
Never to return again.

Oh love oh love oh loveless love
Has said our hearts are goldless gold
From milkless milk and silkless silk
We are growing used to soul-less souls

Such grafting times we never saw
That's why we have a Pure Food Law
In everything we find a flaw
Even love oh love oh loveless love

Just to fly away from loveless love

CARELESS LOVE
(Bessie Smith, New York, May 26 1925)

Love, Oh love, Oh careless love
You fly to my head like wine
You wrecked the life of a-many poor girl
And you nearly spoiled this life of mine

Love, Oh love, Oh careless love
In your clutches of desire
You made me break a-many true vow
Then you set my very soul on fire.

Love, Oh love, Oh careless love
All my happiness I've left
You fill my heart with them worried old blues
Now I'm walkin', talkin' to myself.

Love, Oh love, Oh careless love
Trusted you now it's too late
You made me throw my only friend down
That's why I sing this song of hate.

Love, Oh love, Oh careless love
Night and day I weep and moan
You brought the wrong man into this life of mine
For my sins till judgement I'll atone.

Here's the link to listen to Bessie Smith: http://www.redhotjazz.com/bessie.html The lyrics are by WC Handy. They are composed lyrics and not the folk lyrics that he heard in 1892 although a few lines may remain.

Here is Riley Puckett's version of 'Careless Love'. Puckett was the blind guitarist and singer for the supergroup, The Skillet Lickers based out of Atlanta. It is interesting that he uses the 'a-many poor' expression rather than 'many a poor', as in the Bessie Smith version.

CARELESS LOVE
Source: transcription from Riley Puckett 'Old-Time Greats Vol 2' Old Homestead OHCD-4174. Riley recorded this twice: on 29 Oct 1931 (issued May 1932 as Co 15747-D) and on 29 March 1934 (issued in September 1934 as Bb B5532). There is no indication on the Old Homestead CD on which of these was the source of the reissue.

Love, oh love, oh careless love
Love, oh love, oh love divine
You broke the heart of a-many poor boy
But you'll never break this heart of mine

Now love, oh love, that is untrue
Love, oh love, that is untrue
Love, oh love, that is untrue
It's hard to love someone that don't love you

You robbed me of my silver and my gold
You robbed me of my silver and my gold
You robbed me of my silver and my gold
But you can't rob me of my soul

Oh take me back to Caroline
Take me back to Caroline
Take me back to Caroline
To see that girl I left behind

Now on these railroad banks I stand
On these railroad banks I stand
On these railroad banks I stand
A-shooting at another man

Love, oh love, oh careless love
Love, oh love, oh love divine
You broke the heart of a-many poor boy
But you'll never break this heart of mine
 

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