Stephen Foster & Co.

Lyrics of America's First Great Popular Songs

By Stephen Foster; Ken Emerson (Editor)
(Library of America, Hardcover, 9781598530704, 182pp.)

Publication Date: April 15, 2010

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Stephen Foster (1826-1864) is the trunk of the tree of American song. His blackface minstrel songs, including "Oh Susanna," "Old Folks at Home" ("Way down upon the Swanee River..."), and "My Old Kentucky Home," and his parlor ballads, such as "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" and "Beautiful Dreamer," have inspired composers, songwriters, and performers from Charles Ives and George Gershwin to Ray Charles and James Taylor. Foster devoted as much care and craft to his lyrics as he did to his timeless melodies. In this comprehensive new selection, acclaimed music historian Ken Emerson introduces and annotates the lyrics to more than 30 of Foster's best and best-known songs. These masterpieces by America's first full-time professional songwriter have been so deeply absorbed into our culture that they are often assumed to be folk music. Alongside are 49 other 19th-century American popular songs that influenced Foster or that he in turn inspired, from "Home Sweet Home " in the 1820s to "Western Home" (the original "Home on the Range") in the 1870s.
"With his usual taste and insight, Ken Emerson has given us a much-needed collection of the lyrics of Stephen Foster and the other trailblazing talents who first defined American popular songwriting." -Elijah Wald, author of "How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'N' Roll"

About the Author
Stephen Foster, Presidential Research Professor of history at Northern Illinois University, is author of "Their Solitary Way: The Puritan Social Ethic in the First Century of Settlement in New England" and "Notes from the Caroline Underground: Alexander Leighton, the Puritan Triumvirate, and the Laudian Reaction to Nonconformity".

Friday, Apr 16, 2010

If you've ever hummed "Camptown Races" or "Oh! Susanna," then you're familiar with 19th century songwriter Stephen Foster. But the lyrics in Foster's songs often contained condescending racial ideas. Music historian Ken Emerson, the author of a Foster biography, has annotated many of the songwriter's lyrics in a new book, Stephen Foster & Co. More at

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