Stephen Foster

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All the world is sad and dreary,
Everywhere I roam.

Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826January 13, 1864), known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century. His songs, such as Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, My Old Kentucky Home, Old Black Joe, Beautiful Dreamer and Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) remain popular over 150 years after their composition.


  • Oh I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee,
    I'm going to Louisiana, my true love for to see
    It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry
    The sun so hot I froze to death; Susanna, don't you cry.
    Oh, Susanna, don't you cry for me
    For I come from Alabama,
    With my banjo on my knee.
  • Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
    Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away,
    Gone from the earth to a better land I know,
    I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe."
  • Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
    Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
    Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
    Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away.
  • The head must bow, and the back will have to bend,
    Wherever the darkey may go;
    A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
    In the field where the sugar-canes grow.
    A few more days for to tote the weary load,—
    No matter, 't will never be light;
    A few more days till we totter on the road:—
    Then my old Kentucky home, good-night!
  • The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
    With sorrow where all was delight;
    The time has come when the darkies have to part:
    Then my old Kentucky home, good night!

Old Folks at Home[edit]

  • Sadly I roam,
    Still longing for de old plantation,
    And for de old folks at home.
  • All up and down the whole creation,
    Sadly I roam,
    Still longing for the old plantation,
    And for the old folks at home.
  • All the world is sad and dreary,
    Everywhere I roam.
    • As quoted at Family Book of Best Loved Poems, by David L. George, (1952)

Quotes about Stephen Foster[edit]

  • Today I would choose Stephen Foster as an underrated composer. His music has been played so often that it is easy to forget how powerful, poignant and uniquely American it is.
    • Betty Allen, quoted in "Judging Composers: High Notes, and Low", The New York Times (March 22, 1987)

External links[edit]

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