He Heard America Sing

He Heard America Sing

Story of Stephen Foster

by Clair Lee Purdy
Publisher: Julian Messner
©1949, Item: 63659
Hardcover, 236 pages
Not in stock

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Who does not know the tender and melancholy love song, Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming, the yearning melodies of My Old Kentucky Home, Way Down Upon the Swanee River, and Massa's in de Cold Ground, the rollicking rhythms of Lou'siana Belle and Oh! Susanna? Here is the story of the gifted and lovable composer, Stephen Foster, who captured the spirit of his country and preserved it in scores of songs such as these—haunting love lyrics, and Negro ballads both humorous and sad. 

In this biography, all the scenes and events and people that influenced this composer's creative work are faithfully preserved, from Pittsburgh on to Cincinnati and then to New Orleans, busy port of the Mississippi: the lusty life of levee and dock in the steamboatin' days; roustabouts on the wharves, rolling barrels, tossing bales, singing as they work; ragged old keelboat men yearning for the days before steam and singing the songs of the "alligator-hosses"; deck hands lying in the moonlight on the boiler decks of paddlewheel steamboats, plucking African tunes from banjos, singing the plantation melodies of the Deep South.

All the "dear friends and gentle hearts" find a place in the narrative. Uncle Struthers, hearty old frontiersman and Indian fighter of Ohio; the German brothers Kleber, who helped the young composer with his music; Susan Pentland, the little girl next door, Old Black Joe, faithful house servant at Dr. McDowell's; and Jane McDowell, the lovely "Jeanie with the light brown hair." 

A colorful tapestry forms the background of the poignant drama of Stephen Foster's life. Conestoga wagons creaking over the Oregon Trail are part of it, and the Mexican War, the days of '49, and the Civil War. There are echoes, too, of an earlier day in tales told to the boy Stephen by his father and Uncle Struthers—tales of outlaws at Cave-in-Rock; of Lafitte's pirate craft lurking in Louisiana bays and bayous; of Tecumseh; of Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Trail. 

Amidst all the hurly-burly Stephen Foster went his quiet way, playing his beloved flute, doing his job of bookkeeping faithfully in Brother Dunning's warehouse in Cincinnati, visiting his kinspeople at Bardstown, Kentucky, frowning a little at the institution of slavery, laughing with the revelers at Mardi Gras time in New Orleans, always listening when the people sang. His is a story with both laughter and tears, a story of pleasant and stirring days gone by, of young America growing, of a sensitive listener who dared to attune his musician's ear to the harmonies and rhythms of the humble, the poor, and the oppressed of the land, from whose hearts sprang the honest music and homespun verse which have come to be our folk songs. 

—from the dust jacket

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