Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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I come from Alabama,
Wid my banjo on my knee, I'm gwine to Louisiana
My true love for to see; It rained all night the day I left,
The weather it was dry, The sun so hot I froze to death,
Susanna, don't you cry!
I jumped aboard the telegraph,
And trabbeled down de ribber, De 'lectric fluid magnified
And killed five hundred nigger; De bullgine bust, de horse run off,
I really thought I'd die, I shut my eyes to hold my breath,
Susanna, don't you cry!
" 'Way Down South" is a little better than this, and the music contains several rhythmic elements of the characteristic syncopation later known as "rag-time." The chorus of each of the songs was sung by a male quartet or chorus.
"Uncle Ned," on the other hand, belongs to a different world. Here the negro ceases to be a caricature and becomes a human being:
There was an old nigger, his name was Uncle Ned,
He's dead long ago, long ago; He had no wool on top of his head,
De place whar de wool ought to grow; Den lay down de shubble and de hoe,
Hang up de fiddle and de bow, No more hard work for poor old Ned,
He's gone whar de good niggers go.
"Uncle Ned" became enormously popular at once, and has always been one of the best-known of Foster's melodies. It is the first of the pathetic negro songs that set Foster apart from his contemporaries and gave him a place in musical history. In this type of song, universal in the appeal of its naive pathos, he has never had an equal.
Two other songs were published in 1847. They are not particularly important except that they show the measure of Foster's ability in more serious vein than the minstrel songs. "What Must a Fairy's Dream Be"

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III