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Stephen Foster

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Foster the Songwriter

Ethiopian Minstrel Songs
Less racy than others of the genre, these minstrel songs are characteristically set in the South and rendered in black dialect.

Lou'siana Belle (listen to a sample)
Oh! Susanna (listen to a sample)
My Brodder Gum

Plantation Melodies
Although writing in dialect, Foster began moving toward "refined" minstrel song, depicting blacks as deserving of respect and capable of a full range of human emotion.

Nelly Was a Lady
Old Folks at Home (listen to a sample)
My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night! (listen to a sample)

American Melodies
Neither set specifically in the South nor written in dialect, these songs represent a full merger of minstrel songs with refined ideals.

Hard Times Come Again No More (listen to a sample)
Old Dog Tray

Parlor Ballads
Influenced by the work of European writers such as Robert Burns and Thomas Moore, these elegant songs fit Foster's definition of "refined." These songs earned only pennies in comparison with his minstrel and plantation songs.

Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (listen to a sample)
Gentle Annie

As a young man, Stephen Foster undoubtedly heard courting songs sung in the parlors of Pittsburgh. These are two of his own from the beginning and end of his career.

Open Thy Lattice, Love
Beautiful Dreamer (listen to a sample)

Politics and War
Like many of his fellow composers, Foster wrote songs that responded to the events of the day. The first of these songs helped James Buchanan win the White House; the second roused Union sentiment during the Civil War.

The White House Chair
That's What's the Matter (listen to a sample)

Music Hall
Foster's collaboration with law student and poet George Cooper produced more than twenty songs, including these. In their wit and accelerated pace, they looked forward to the vaudeville era.

Mr. & Mrs. Brown
My Wife is a Most Knowing Woman

In the last year of his life, Foster wrote more than twenty hymns, mostly aimed at children's Sunday school. Some of them are set to words of other poets, but most are his own words offering moral instruction to young souls.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
The Pure, the Bright, the Beautiful

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