Little Black Train

Album: The Carter Family Album (1935)

Songfacts®:

  • The "little black train" represents death. Like many songs the Carter Family popularized, it was based on a gospel hymn the dates back to the 1800s. The song is telling the listener to get right with God before the light goes out.
  • The writing credit on this song goes to A.P. Carter, who along with Mother Maybelle Carter and Sara Carter, formed the group at this time. A.P. accumulated many songwriting credits by adapting hymns for a more contemporary audience. In many cases, the Carter Family arrangements became the standards for these songs.
  • Woody Guthrie also did a popular arrangement of this song with a different set of lyrics. His version was copyrighted in 1965.
  • Mother Maybelle Carter's granddaughter Carlene Carter recorded a modern version for her 2014 album Carter Girl. In our interview with Carlene, she said: "When you hear the original recording of 'Little Black Train,' Grandma and Sara are singing in these little tiny hillbilly voices and a completely different guitar thing and a different feel. And I thought, This needs to be more rocking."

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Lajon Witherspoon of SevendustSongwriter Interviews

The Sevendust frontman talks about the group's songwriting process, and how trips to the Murder Bar helped forge their latest album.

Tony Banks of GenesisSongwriter Interviews

Genesis' key-man re-examines his solo career and the early days of music video.

AC/DCFact or Fiction

Does Angus really drink himself silly? Did their name come from a sewing machine? See if you can spot the real stories about AC/DC.

When Rock Belonged To MichelobSong Writing

Michelob commercials generated hits for Eric Clapton, Genesis and Steve Winwood in the '80s, even as some of these rockers were fighting alcoholism.

Band NamesFact or Fiction

Was "Pearl" Eddie Vedder's grandmother, and did she really make a hallucinogenic jam? Did Journey have a contest to name the group? And what does KISS stand for anyway?

Deconstructing Doors Songs With The Author Of The Doors ExaminedSong Writing

Doors expert Jim Cherry, author of The Doors Examined, talks about some of their defining songs and exposes some Jim Morrison myths.