If it were not for Stephen Foster one of my grand-daughter Princess would not be able to sing one of her favorite songs because it would not have been invented. Stephen Foster many know him as the inventor of "the father of American music" He wrote songs primarily that were parlor and minstrel in style. He wrote over 200 songs and among them were "Oh Susanna", "Camptown Races" and "My Old Kentucky Home"
Like Princess I learned these songs at school and I hope she recalls them for years to come as I still do. I believe when I could sing the song along with her she was a bit surprised. To tell you the truth it is the stories behind the songs, the beat of the music, and the fun within the words that makes these songs so memorable.
Many think that his compositions were autobiographical in style. Known by many as "the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century" His songs are often referred to as childhood songs as they have been included in curriculum of early education.
Born July 4, 1826 to William Barclay Foster and Eliza Clayland Tomlison. Stephen was born into a full family with three sisters and six brothers. He would attend school at private academies in Pennsylvania earining a degree in English grammar, diction, the classics, penmanship, Latin, Greek and math.
Foster became a musician by teaching himself instruments like the clarinet, violin, guitar, flute an piano. Henry Kleber a German born music dealer would help Foster learn to compose music. It would not take long before Stephen would find something to write about. Foster would attend Athens Academy only 30 miles from the famous Camptown Races.
Foster lived in an area where many European immigrants settled. The music and musical styles of the Italian, Scots-Irish and German families of the neighborhood would inspire him. Foster would also author many church hymns.
Stephen Foster would move to Cincinnati Ohio where he worked as bookkeeper for his brothers steamship company. Here he would write the song "Oh! Susanna" which became famous during California Gold Rush.
Shortly after he would return to Pennsylvania and begin writing many songs including "Shawnee River" , "My Old Kentucky Home" and more. Many of Foster's songs were played at blackface minstrel shows. Foster never lived in the South but had visited he created songs that made you think of the South.
Foster would pass January 13th 1864 after becoming ill with a fever and falling, cutting his neck. His writing partner George Cooper would find him alive, naked, lying in a pool of blood. Three days later at the age of 37 he would die. He was buried in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.