Tags : :
The American Civl War is continues, and wonderful songwriter dies 150 years, today.
From the TSS civil war news link by Ed Mohrmann:
January 13 1864
Hundreds of thousands died during the ACW - about 600,000 were soldiers on either
side, most from disease.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians died as well - but the death of one particular
civilian on this date in 1864 deserves, IMHO, to be a matter of note.
Stephen Foster was America's first professional songwriter. Born in Pennsylvania
on July 4, 1826, Foster wrote his songs in the style of African-American
His first 'big hit' was 'Oh, Susanna !' which he sold to a publisher in 1848 for
the grand sum of $100.
The leader of E.P. Christy's musical troupe (minstrels) hired Foster in 1849 to
write songs for the group. From this period came 'The Old Folks at Home' (AKA 'Suwannee
River'). Between 1850 and 1860, Foster wrote most of the songs for which we remember
him, especially 'My Old Kentucky Home' and 'Camptown Races.'
Foster realized little financial gain from his intellectual property, since copyright
laws were rarely enforced in regard to music. Straitened finances led him to sell
all future rights to whatever music he created for a bit less than $2,000 in 1857.
Bereft of money, friends and prospects, Foster lived alone in New York City and
descended into alcoholism. He contracted a fever which left him too weak to stand
and he fell, striking his head on a washbasin.
He was taken to the poverty ward in NY's Bellevue Hospital, where he died.
A sad end for the man who wrote more than 200 songs which gave joy to many and
which still do so today.