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American Poets Project
Stephen Foster Ken Emerson

Stephen Foster & Co.: Lyrics of America’s First Great Popular Songs

edited by ken emerson

About the Editor
Table of Contents

Above: Stephen Foster and Ken Emerson


Read an exclusive interview with volume editor Ken Emerson (PDF, 62K)

Read an excerpt, “Hard Times Come Again No More” by Stephen Foster (PDF, 33K)

Read an excerpt, “Down by the River Lived a Maiden” by H. S. Thompson and “Oh My Darling Clementine” by Percy Montrose (PDF, 34K)

Stephen Foster (1826–1865) 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 thirty of Foster’s best and best-known songs. These masterpieces by America’s first full-time professional songwriter, forebear of Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Carole King, and Bob Dylan, have been so deeply absorbed into our culture that they are often assumed to be folk music. Alongside are fifty other 19th-century American popular songs that influenced Foster or that he in turn influenced, from “Home! Sweet Home!” in the 1820s to “Western Home” (the original “Home on the Range”) in the 1870s.

Stephen Foster & Co.: Lyrics of America’s First Great Popular Songs  book jacket
Presented by The Library of America
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