Beautiful Dreamer, Stephen Foster, Americas First Folk Song Writer


"Beautiful Dreamer" was written by Stephen Foster just before his death in 1864 at age 37. The song became one of his most famous and most popular. However, as with the approximately 200 other songs that Foster wrote during his brief lifetime, he did not receive the recognition or financial reward that he deserved.

Stephen Foster was America's first great songwriter, yet he died with 38 cents in a leather poke and a scrap of paper on which he had written a bit of song lyric, "dear friends and gentle hearts."

Stephen Collins Foster was born near Pittsburgh on July 4, 1826, the same day that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died. Foster died in 1864 when he suffered a fall at home while weak from fever. The fall cut open his head and he died in New York's Bellevue Hospital shortly thereafter. Foster had been suffering from alcoholism for years prior to his accidental death.

Young Stephen was able to play tunes on the guitar at age two, and at age ten he performed popular comic songs with local boys. By age 18 he wrote blackface minstrel songs which were the popular folk music of the day. At age 21 he composed the minstrel song, "Oh! Susanna," which became a hit, resung, repeated, and whistled across the country. In fact it became the unofficial anthem of the California Gold Rush two years later.

Music publication was in its infancy in those days and music recording didn't even exist. Stephen Foster did not receive royalties or fees for the many publications or arrangements of "Oh! Susanna" over the next few years. Indeed, he gave away the rights to the song and never received a penny for it.

Over the next ten years Foster wrote many songs, including "The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)," "Camptown Races," "Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair," "Old Black Joe," "Nelly Bly," "Old Dog Tray," and "My Old Kentucky Home." Stephen Foster earned a little money by selling his songs outright, some for as little as one dollar. It's been said that his songwriting earned him about $20,000 during the 15 or so years of his songwriting career.

In 1935 Florida adopted "The Swanee River" as the official state song, though Stephen Foster never visited Florida nor saw the river. He chose "Swanee" because the two syllables fit the music he had written. Foster sold E.P.Christy of the "Christy Minstrels," a blackface minstrel show troupe, the authorship rights to "The Swanee River," a regrettable decision.

The song became a popular international folk tune and has been credited with starting the tourist industry in Florida. Beginning in the 1880's millions of people traveled to Florida to view the famous northern Florida river.

In 1928 Kentucky adopted "My Old Kentucky Home" as their official state song. In 1986 Kentucky changed the second line of the song, "'Tis summer, the darkies are gay;" to "'Tis summer, the people are gay;" for obvious reasons.

Because of the popularity of "My Old Kentucky Home" and "The Swanee River," many people have the impression that Stephen Foster was a southern gentleman. However, he visited the South on only one occasion, a steamboat trip to New Orleans in 1852.

Stephen Foster spent his life mostly in Pennsylvania and New York. His father, William Foster Sr., spent many years in politics, working for President Harrison and winning election to two terms as mayor of Allegheny, Pa.

Prior to the Civil War Stephen Foster helped James Buchanan become President by becoming the musical director of the Buchanan Glee Club and by writing musical pieces for the campaign effort.

During the Civil War Stephen Foster wrote about 70 songs, mostly patriotic war songs which sold poorly. During the war Foster's alcoholism deteriorated his health until his poverty-stricken death in 1864.

Two months after his death, Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" was published in New York.

Beautiful Dreamer by Stephen Foster

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away!

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng, --
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chaunting the wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.

Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart, --
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

*****************************

Garry Gamber is a public school teacher and entrepreneur. He writes articles about real estate, health and nutrition, and internet dating services. He is the owner of http://www.Anchorage-Homes.com and http://www.TheDatingAdvisor.com.


RELATED ARTICLES
Stones
As I picked up some of the polished gemstones in the rock store I began to think about what the stones looked like before they were polished. The store had several rocks on display showing the before and after and I realized that unless you knew what you were looking for, you could easily pass by a valuable gemstone.
Colorful Talk
"I heard what you said, Red. Yet, I have to disagree.
Walt Whitman, Romance With a Stranger
The concept of brief encounters, even romantic encounters, with a stranger recurs often in the verses of Walt Whitman.Take, for example, these lines from one of the inscriptions that Whitman wrote to his 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass.
A Ship to Remember
Hammers. Timbers.
Storm Rising along the Lima Coast
Storm Rising along the Lima Coast [Summer of 2002]?wind was blowing furiously It never left for a moment Bursts of fury I found it difficult to keep My feet placed, thus, I clung to my knees For one blissful moment I could not now disguise it From myself Some subtle feeling Manifested itself Then the current drew Sharply away from me With her mystery-Back out into the open sea Yet-, still it roared back at me! It was an expressed release It made my head swim I noticed it kept-step With my exultation!?#761 7/14/2005Notes: There are mysteries to the sea, at times it seems as to have its own mind, its own character; as if nature was plugged into all that exist. Earth itself being an entity with its own lively soul.
The Last King of Mars [A Poetic Mytho]
[As Told by the Last] King: it was in the year 23,700 BC that one of the two moons of earth was hit by a meteor that of which, a great part of the moon broke off and hit earth's surface with a devastating impact. Thus the solar system absorbed a cataclysm in unimaginable proportions, from Jupiter to Mars; knocking Earth out of its 100,000-year Ice Age.
Cruel World
Azra, Azra,Wake up Azra.Wake up Azra,It is time to go.
A Hundred and Fifty Dead [Korean War--l952]
There I sat, ninety-five degree weatherOutside; the bookstore café, was cool.An Old Timer stood by me, explaining:"There were two-hundred of us on the Island,Near North Korea, back in '52-We guarded 16,000-prisners?"All of a sudden, all hell broke looseThree-hundred North Koreans cameOver the bob-wired fence, in pursuit"It all happened in a matter of secondsThe machineguns killed 150-of themThat's all I saw in the war of '52.
Footprints to Mantaro Valley (a poem in Spanish and English)
Footprints to Mantaro Valley(English version)In what retreat art hid?-Where falling mountains groanIn shadow and amongThe rapids of the Rio?Is not your name Mantaro Valley?Beyond the footprints of the Andes--?I can hear your voice in echoesI can hear thy voice, divinely low.I do but know thy by a glanceAs the clouds above me know? .
Four Poems: Grendels Nature...the Racetrack...Counting days...[Now in English and Spanish]
English Version1) Grendel's DivorceYou must know that I do not hateAnd that I hate you,Because everything dead has twoSides;A sound is one arm of the quiet,Ice has its warm half.I hate you in order to start hating youTo begin life againAnd never to stop hating you:That is why I do not hate you yet.
Commuting Hell!
It's dark, it's cold, its' just six thirty,thoughts of sleep still dull my brain,As I huddle down, inside my coat,a commuter clone, just waiting for a train.Insidious rain, just drizzling down,through weak light of creeping dawn,Paper sandwich bags and old coffee cups,blowing past, look so forlorn.
Its What She Didnt Say
When I hear your voice inside my head it makes me think of you every single day as I fight back tears of sadness and wonder if you're okayMy life is empty without you I wish time would take away the pain but the ache in my heart persists and my simple hopes seem in vainI realize how much I hurt you and now I know it's too late to tell you how sorry I am and expect you not to hateI don't deserve a second chance to show you how much I care when you needed me the most I know I failed to be thereNow your trust in me is gone forever and I will never have the chance to say I really hope your dreams come true and happiness finds you every dayI would give almost anything in life if I could go back to that day and erase everything I said and did to make your heartache go awayWhat hurts the most is this is what you didn't say and the absence of these words haunt me each and every day..
In The Midst Of All
In the midst of darkness, there is light. In the midst of evil, there is virtue.
The Game of Life
When your life becomes unbearable And the light of promise ceases to glow, When all your dreams and aspirationsLie dormant on ambition's death row.When you feel that all is hopeless, Life troubles just seem to abound.
Welcome to the Town of Feeling
Happy, Sad, Mad and Glad,Moved in down the streetCautious watched them, from her window,Wondering, which one should I meet?Confused came in with overwhelmed and said,"The Panics have come to town"Then Hopeful called the carefulls,And said that Happy was a clown.Anxious came in with the news,Confident had called a town meetingTo take a vote for Mayor,And to Welcome the new neighbors to Feeling.
The Exit Poems [Iron and Fire & No Heroes]
The Exit Poems [And Socrates]Iron and FireIron can be soften by fire-grows hard in the cold;and all the gates thereinare, as it was, closed again.So, often are those misled?by luxury and pride,who push humility aside-:thus, redemption their vanityand perfection their virtue?and in the end, they all collided.
Kafka Re-Trial
Kafka lands resurrected in Crewedeposited by a silvery alien craft,And whilst he is wondering what to doHe is asked to show his passOr pay an instant one off fineAt a cash dispenser of his choiceAnd they are checking all the timeOn his irises face and voice.And of course they find that he is not,They discover he just cannot be there,Although he seems as if he is visible,And has hands and toes and hair,If he is not on the Great Data Bank,He plainly and simply cannot be,He is not listed and he is not rankedHe is surely not like you and me.
Three Poems: Liberty, Death, and a Frog [with Commentary on Liberty]
Frog SummerSummer grows hot, for theNew-blooded frogs;The bugs are thin, yet theFrogs stay fat, young and sassy.In these palsy times-they Only listen, as we wither away.
Because of You
You are to me my lifelinemy security.That scares me.
Two Poems Written During Recovery
Since my wife and I are moving, or preparing to move, we've been going through our things as most people must, to prepare for the new location, and in doing so, I found two poems, ones I wrote in 1990, now 15-years old, never published, and so I'd like to publish them today. I was a heavy drinker up to 1984 (some twenty years drinking), when I quite, and so these poems must have something to do with it, a slight reflection perhaps.