Stephen Foster was a songwriter that’s been called the “father of American music.” He wrote hundreds of songs that include My Old Kentucky Home, Beautiful Dreamer, Oh! Susanna, and Swanee River. Many historians have called him one of the most famous songwriters of the 1800s and one of the most recognizable American composers around the world. That’s why it’s quite fitting that a day called Stephen Foster Memorial Day should be held on the date of his death: January 13th. It’s a great day to enjoy one of his 200+ songs and/or share them with friends and family members.
A Short Bio Of Stephen Foster
Although not much is known about this American composer, we can go lay out some of the facts that we do know about him. Stephen Foster was born Stephen Collins Foster on July 4th, 1826 in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. He went to private schools in Athens and Towanda, Pennsylvania, and received a proper education in mathematics, English, diction, Latin, Greek, and the classics. He taught himself to play the flute, guitar, clarinet, and piano.
He then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1846 and became a bookkeeper at his brother’s steamship company. During this time he wrote his first successful song: “Oh! Susanna.” This song would become the anthem for wannabe gold miners heading west to the California Gold Rush. He would eventually return to Pennsylvania and sign a contract with the Christy Minstrels. He would then go on to write some of his most famous songs including “Ring de Banjo,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” and “Old Dog Tray.” In 1864, he became sick with a fever and fell in his hotel in Bowery. This resulted in his neck ending up getting cut. His writing partner George Cooper would end up finding him lying in a pool of his own blood, so he had him rushed to Bellevue Hospital. Stephen Foster died three days later, on January 13, 1864, at the age of 37-years of age.
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