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Jeff Fabis

American Music
Monday, March 12
Stephen Foster
Stephen Foster, born July 4 1826, was an American composer, and sometimes called
“The Father of American Music” as his writing consisted of both minstrel and Parlor songs. He
had many popular tunes, such as the two entitled “ Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”, and “Ah,
May the Red Rose Live Always”. Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair is a Parlor song published
in 1854, and the reason for the composition has theories associated to it but is still unknown.
Foster was married to a women named “Jeannie” and the marriage was short lived, the most
prominent theory behind why the song was written is that it was Foster’s attempt at winning his
wife back. This was one of his most popular songs, but still was commercially unsuccessful,
earning Foster about $200 in royalties. “Ah, May the Red Rose Live Always” is another parlor
song by Foster, but is instead a ballad in order to communicate a more sentimental quality. This
song in particular has hints at irish roots given the musical quality of the song. A similarity
between this tune and “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” is that Foster gives the performer
room to improvise with some musical elements, which was uncommon in his music. This song
was also commercially unsuccessful, earning Foster around $8 in royalties.