Anna Kendrick’s Song “Cups” Has Country Roots

Viral sensation stems from The Carter Family.

If you are reading this, you are very likely one of the 50 million or so people who have watched the video for actress Anna Kendrick’s “Cups,” also known as “When I’m Gone” from the 2012 film Pitch Perfect.

You’ve probably also tried to replicate, with varying levels of success, the tune’s wickedly cool “cup game” rhythm.

Some of you history buffs and Internet junkies out there probably know already, but you’ve been clapping along to an old Carter Family song.

It’s true. Before Anna’s version hit the upper reaches of Billboard’s Hot 100, the song can be traced to the Appalachian folk song “When I’m Gone,” which The Carter Family recorded in 1931.

Later renditions include those by J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers and Charlie Monroe. Music publisher Ralph Peer first recorded the Carters—A.P., Sara and Maybelle—in 1927 in Bristol, Tenn.

The Carter Family

J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers

Charlie Monroe

Fast-forward to 2009, when British group Lulu and the Lampshades added the cup rhythm to their version, which spawned numerous YouTube imitators. One of the most popular was Anna Burden’s, whose video was a viral hit and inspired Anna Kendrick’s audition scene in Pitch Perfect.

Lulu and the Lampshades

Anna Burden

Remarkably, Anna’s film version of the song initially appeared on the Billboard chart back in January 2013. It was replaced by the single version from the video, but its slow ascent marks one of the longest climbs by a woman through the Billboard Hot 100, along with popular singles by country gals Carrie Underwood and Faith Hill.

But not to worry—that classic hook courtesy of The Carter Family will stick with us long after this song is gone from the chart, anyway.

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