Story and Origins of Famous Songs I Love You Truly

About the history, origins, and story behind the song I Love You Truly.


"I LOVE YOU TRULY," Carrie Jacobs Bond--c. 1890

If Carrie Jacobs Bond had been born a boy, she would have made a perfect Horatio Alger hero. As it was, she was compelled by the attitudes of her time to maintain the facade of the brave little widow struggling to make it in a big, bad world, meanwhile hiding her extremely aggressive nature behind this saccharine exterior.

A child prodigy, Carrie could play the piano by ear at the age of six. However, she did not become a professional musician; instead she married, no once, but twice, the second time happily. Her second husband, Dr. Frank Lewis Bond, encouraged her songwriting, particularly since he viewed it as a second source of income when his medical practice began to fail after the iron mines in northern Michigan, where they then lived, were closed down. Through a Chicago Herald features editor named Amber, Carrie made an appointment with a music publisher and showed him the songs she had written. He liked them, and he asked her to write a song for children. She did--the successful tearjerker "Is My Dolly Dead?"

She once said, "The things that have happened to me have always happened suddenly." The death of Dr. Bond certainly was sudden. He was killed by a child's snowball. When it hit him, he fell on the ice, crushed his ribs, and died. Carrie was left with a small son, a load of debts, inflammatory rheumatism, and only $4,000 in life insurance with which to cope. She moved to Chicago, where she made a chancy living selling hand-painted china and running a rooming house. She was very poor. She sold her furniture and silverware, ate only once a day, made a coat out of a blanket, and wrote by candlelight on wrapping paper.

However, Carrie was a survivor. She decided to advertise her songs, and she talked a woman magazine editor into giving her advertising space in exchange for some dressmaking. Carrie also tried to popularize her songs by singing them publicly herself, although she was not a beautiful woman, considered herself shy, and wasn't much of a singer. (A woman critic-- Carrie hated her forever after--described Carrie as "a plain, angular woman, who sings plain, angular songs, and sets them to plain, angular music.")

A young female singer lived across the hall from Carrie in her rooming house. One day the girl was called away unexpectedly, and she asked Carrie to entertain her manager and a singer friend during her absence. When the two men arrived, Carrie took them into her own apartment. The manager--whose name, believe it or not, was Victor P. Sincere--spotted her manuscripts and asked whether she had written them. When she said yes, he asked her to play something for him, and she immediately obliged. The song she played was "I Love You Truly." He offered to have this ballad sung in public, but since it was not copyrighted, Carrie was afraid someone would steal it if this were done.

Soon afterward, Carrie had second thoughts. She called Jessie Bartlett Davis, a Boston Opera Company prima donna, from a corner drugstore. (Carrie couldn't afford a private phone.) Jessie Davis had made "Oh, Promise Me" famous, and although Carrie didn't know Davis, she hoped to get the singer to do the same for some of her songs. Jessie Davis listened to Carrie's songs and, impressed, volunteered to help pay the cost of publishing Carrie's first songbook. Two songs in this book became very popular. One was "Just A-Wearyin' for You," and the other was "I Love You Truly."

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