• Stephen Foster
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    Stephen Collins Foster, the ninth of William B. and Eliza T. Foster's ten children (plus a son fathered by William before the marriage and later raised as their oldest child), was born July 4, 1826, in a white cottage high on the hillside above the Allegheny River in Lawrenceville, east of Pittsburgh. The tenth child died as an infant, leaving Stephen as the "baby" of the family to be indulged by older brothers and sisters. Foster's life has become part of American legend. Foster was an American composer. He composed his first piece of music at the age of 14. He played the piano and the flute. Foster married a woman named Jane McDowell and they had one daughter, Marion. From the stress of being a composer, Foster begin to drink more and he eventually became an aloholic. He drank more and wrote less. Jane and Foster seperated two times before they seperated for good. Some say it was because Jane was not musical and others say that Foster never spent time with his family. In 1864, Foster fell out of bed and cut his neck...3 days later he died. Among his most popular songs are: Oh! Susanna (1848), De Campton Races (1850), Old Folks at Home [aka Swanee River] (1851), My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night! (1853), Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair (1854), Gentle Annie (1856), Beautiful Dreamer (1862), and The Voices That Are Gone (1865).
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    When Stephen Foster visited his cousin's plantation, Federal Hill, he was inspired to write "My Old Kentucky Home."
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    Inside "My Old Kentucky Home"
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    Blackface Minstrelsy Interview with Mel Watkins: Although blackface minstrelsy was racist, did it have any benefit for African Americans? Mel Watkins: On stage you had white performers saying, "Okay, we accept this type of music, we accept the antic performers," and even though it was done in a ridiculing manner, there was some acceptance -- at least on stage. And by the 1860s black performers [were] going on the stage themselves and performing in a similar manner. Because basically when the black performers did minstrel shows, they were doing the same acts that whites had done before. It was necessary for them -- it was necessary for them to do that to be on stage. Otherwise, they would not have been allowed there. Gradually, they would change it, they would make modifications.
  • Question for Student: What musical style is "My Old Kentucky Home?" Please post your response on the messageboard and don't forget to restate the question.