July 4, 1826:  Eliza Foster welcomes 
her seventh child, Stephen, 
into the world.

Slumber, my darling, thy mother is near
Guarding thy dreams from all terror and fear.
Slumber, my darling, I'll wrap thee up warm
And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

  July 4, 1926:  

On his hundredeth anniversary,  Stephen's only child, Marion, shares reminiscences with a reporter, Geoff Cooper, grandson of her father's collaborator, George Cooper, evoking memories of --

Young Marion (below), secure in the love of her playful father and her stalwart uncle Morrison (Mitty).


 


 With the swearer, the idler, the truant from school 
I desire not to go, not to go.
They are certain to do what they ought not to do 
and to learn what they ought not to know.

 

Music by Stephen Foster; words decidedly not by Stephen Foster, a poor student at best.

 

 


 Oh!  Susanna, Oh!  Don't you cry for me
I've come from Alabama With a banjo on my knee!

 

 

 

Stephen has his first hit, "Oh Susannah!", which became the soundtrack to the California Gold Rush.

Oh California!  That’s the land for me,
I’m going to California the gold dust for to see.


 

I dream of Jenny with the light blonde hair...

Jane Denny (Jenny) chooses the unpredictable young songwriter over his childhood rival Richard (left), the A+ student now a pompous lawyer. 

 

 

   

Stephen soon learns that with marriage comes responsibility, and a family.

 

 

Come, I am longing to hear thee,

Beautiful child of song...

 

Steve, you know we love your work, a legend in your own time -- but twenty-five hundred dollars? We’ve got a business to run, we’ve got expenses. We might be able to come with...fifteen hundred.... 

The first professional American songwriter, Stephen bargains away future royalties so he can meet the rent.

Oh!  Comrades fill no glass for me
To drown my soul in liquid flame
For if I drank, the toast should be:
To blighted fortune, health and fame.

As his fortunes decline, Stephen separates from his family, turns more and more to drink.

We dare not look behind us
But steadily before.
We are coming, Father Abraam,
Three hundred thousand more!

With the Civil War comes an outpouring of songwriting.  Stephen has paved the way for a whole new breed of professional songwriters.  He tries his hand -- sometimes with the help of George Cooper, but tastes in music have changed.

A footnote to cultural history:  the last time George Cooper saw Stephen, he was on his way to meet his fiancee, about whom he wrote the barbershop classic, "Genevieve, Sweet Genevieve."

January 13, 1863:  
"Stephen is dead.  Come at once.  George Cooper." 

Jane and Morrison receive the telegram from his friend and collaborator that Stephen has died of a fall in his room on the Bowery.  In his pocket, a scrap of paper, the beginnings of a new song, never written:  "Dear friends and gentle hearts..."


 

  Ah! May the red rose live alway
To smile upon earth and sky.
Why should the beautiful ever weep?
Why should the innocent die?


 

 Marion reaches across time to her younger self, as a music box -- a gift from her father -- plays the song not published until after Stephen Foster's death.

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee.
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lulled by the moonlight have all passed away.

 

 


SCENES FROM VOICES THAT ARE GONE... WERE PRESENTED IN OUR 12-YEAR RETROSPECTIVE, VOYAGE THROUGH THE ISLES!  TO VIEW THESE, CLICK HERE OR ON THE PHOTO BELOW.

 

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Photos of Voices That Are Gone...The Stephen Foster Story are by Andy Taraska.  If you're looking for a reasonably priced videographer who is also an artist, we highly recommend VideosbyAndy@aol.com