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Stephen Collins Foster (1826 - 64)

Foster was nineteenth-century America’s pre-eminent songwriter. Although many of his songs have Southern themes, Foster never lived there and visited the Deep South only once, on a river-boat trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans in 1852 on his honeymoon. His songs, such as ‘Oh Susanna’, ‘Camptown Races’, ‘Old Folks at Home’ (‘Swanee River’), ‘My Old Kentucky Home’, and, above all, ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ remain immensely popular over 150 years after their composition. ‘The father of American music’ died tragically young and in abject poverty in New York. Foster’s great grandfather sailed to America from Londonderry about 1728.

Further Reading: Ken Emerson, Doo Dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture (1998).

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