Foster, Stephen Collins
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Foster, Stephen Collins,1826–64, American songwriter and composer, b. Lawrenceville, Pa. His pioneer family was aware of his talent for music, but not understanding it they provided him with little formal musical education. Foster's knowledge of African Americans was drawn from minstrel shows, particularly E. P. ChristyChristy, Edwin P.,
1815–62, American showman, b. Philadelphia. He established c.1846 in Buffalo, N.Y., a company of minstrels that came to be known as Christy's Minstrels.
..... Click the link for more information. 's troupe, for which many of his songs were written. Because of their utter simplicity, his black dialect songs are often thought of as folk music. Feeling that prejudice against these "Ethiopian songs" existed, he was at first unwilling to risk his reputation by having his name appear on them. He had little aptitude for business, and his income was never commensurate with the popularity of his songs. Excessive drinking and extreme poverty ruined his last years. He died in Bellevue Hospital, New York City. Although his work was occasionally banal, the songs that have remained popular, such as "Oh! Susannah" (1848), "Camptown Races" (1850), "Old Folks at Home" (1851), "My Old Kentucky Home" (1853), "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" (1854), and "Old Black Joe" (1860), are unpretentious and genuine.
See biographies by J. T. Howard (rev. ed. 1962) and K. Emerson (1997); M. Foster, My Brother Stephen (1932); E. F. Morneweck, Chronicles of Stephen Foster's Family (2 vol., 1944, repr. 1973).
Foster, Stephen Collins
Born July 4, 1826, in Lawrence-ville, near Pittsburgh; died Jan. 13, 1864, in New York. American composer of popular songs.
Foster’s songs incorporated the traditions of family music making (the sentimental ballads “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair,” “Old Dog Tray,” and others), Negro spirituals and plantation songs (the hymnlike “Way Down Upon the Swanee River,” “Old Black Joe,” and “My Old Kentucky Home”), and the comic songs of the minstrel show (“Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” and “Old Uncle Ned”). Foster also wrote songs about the American Revolution (1775–83). Many of his songs became so widely known, even in other languages, that they came to be regarded as folk songs. They were used as “folkloric” material by C. Ives, A. Copland, and F. Poulenc.
REFERENCESFoster, M. Biography, Songs, and Musical Compositions of Stephen Foster, 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, 1896.
Milligan, H. V. S. C. Foster. New York, 1920.
Howard, J. T. Stephen Foster: America’s Troubadour, 4th ed. New York, 1953.
Austin, W. W. Susanna, Jeanie, and the Old Folks at Home: The Songs ofS. C. Foster From His Time to Ours. New York, 1975.
DZH. K. MIKHAILOV