“Careless Love”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1911 (JAFL)
Keywords: sex seduction pregnancy lament
Found in: US(SE,So)


A young girl's lament for having loved unwisely, worrying what her mother will say when the girl returns home, wearing her apron high (i. e. pregnant).


The "Loveless Love" lyrics seem to have been written by W. C. Handy in 1921, using the tune and structure of "Careless Love". He also seems to have claimed "Careless Love" at times, but in other contexts he called it a folk song. So do I. One online biography of Handy called it an 18th-century English folk song ("Dear Companion"?) which by the early 1800s had become a Black rivermen's song. No references, unfortunately. But Wheeler associates the song with the Ohio packet Dick Fowler, running between Cairo and Paducah. - PJS

Same tune

Cross references



  1. Randolph 793, "Careless Love" (3 texts, 1 tune. The "B" text is, however, derived mostly from other materials -- it does not even have the "Careless Love" refrain -- of which "Little Pink" seems to be the most important)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 498-500, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 793A)
  3. Randolph-Legman II, pp. 648-650, "Careless Love" (2 texts)
  4. Warner 167, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Hudson 13, pp. 91-93, "The Lass of Roch Royal" (1 fragments, of which "A" is the "Pretty Little Foot" with a chorus from "Careless Love" and "B" is two "Pretty Little Foot" stanzas artificially and wrongly extracted from "Wild Bill Jones")
  6. Sandburg, p. 21, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Lomax-FSUSA 20, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Lomax-FSNA 309, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 901-902, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. MWheeler, pp. 89-90, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Courlander-NFM, pp. 138-139, "(Careless Love)" (fragments of two texts); pp. 272-273, "Careless Love" (1 tune, partial text)
  12. PSeeger-AFB, p. 11, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Handy/Silverman-Blues, p. 55-57, "Careless Love" (1 text, 1 tune, with a verse from "Free Little Bird" and others added by blues composers)
  14. Silber-FSWB, p. 163, "Careless Love" (1 text)
  15. Fuld-WFM, pp. 162-163, "Careless Love"
  17. Roud #422
  18. BI, R793