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Folk Alliance Newsletter

Performers Column

by Joel Mabus

written April 2002

 

 

Carter Family Words

Joel Mabus

Last time we had an appreciation of the 75th anniversary of Carl Sandburg’s American Songbag. But 2002 is also the diamond anniversary of the Carter Family’s recording debut in Bristol TN, in 1927.  (The Carter Family of Virginia being the early stars of old-time country music and known for their earthy songs of love, death and homely virtues – they were awarded the Folk Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.)  An internet acquaintance of mine, Rob Hutten, posted an bit of data to an email list lately.  He had found a website that contained all of the lyrics to all of the Carter Family songs. Rob did a word search and compiled the most frequently used words, omitting, of course, the common verbs, articles, conjunctions etc. Any word appearing in ten or more songs was included. I thought the list read rather nicely, especially in reverse order.  I've arranged the list so that some words appear together, but these are not phrases, per se -- just words that happen to lie next to each other in the list. 

So here, starting with the word used 25 times in 18 songs (friends) in ascending order to the word used most, 262 times in 101 songs, (love) are the favorite words of the Carter Family:

 

Carter Family Words 
(a found poem)

friends kiss

shore
flowers
pain

sweetheart darling
weeping death
golden god
sad rose
cold birds
lonely sun

loving fair sky
dying free

Jesus

blues song
bright grave place
roam singing
dead poor

goodbye tonight
mountain years
beautiful miss 

forget

sing boy
soul 
roses
land 
life

eyes time
true night

blue happy 
lonesome girl

heaven alone 
loved darling

sweet world
Lord
mother dear 
away
heart

sea

little home

love

 

 

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