Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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AMBITION
55
benefit from them may be attributed to the loving ad­miration of his brother.
In company with Charles Shiras, publisher of "The Albatross," he studied the French and German lan­guages, for which he is reputed to have displayed re­markable aptitude. Another accomplishment of this period was painting in water-colors. As none of his pictures can be found at the present time (although Morrison Foster says they are "yet preserved with pride"), it is impossible to judge of the extent of his talent in that direction.
The year following his return from Cincinnati (1850) saw the publication of fifteen compositions, fourteen songs and one piano piece, the largest output of any year of his life except 1862 and 1863. Of the fourteen songs, six were negro songs obviously put forth to capture the favor of the "minstrel" public. Of these, "Gwine to Run All Night," commonly known as "Camptown Races," achieved the greatest popularity and is the only one remembered to-day. The survival of this song is rather difficult to explain, although its success with the audiences of the time in which it was written is easily understood. Like many of these minstrel songs, its principal element of composition is insistent rhythm. The "tune" is of the most elementary description, but the listener is carried along irresistibly by the strong rhythmic pulse, with the recurring chorus, "Doo-dah-doo-dah day." It celebrates the disreputable negro of the "Jim Crow" type, and the words are for the most part nonsensical. The same description applies to " 'Way Down in Ca-i-ro," "Oh Lemuel, Go Down to the Cotton Field" and "Angelina Baker." The other two negro songs of this year, "Dolly Day" and "Melinda May," are love-songs.
With the exception of " 'Way Down in Ca-i-ro," all of these songs were sung by Christy's Minstrels, Camp­bell's Minstrels, The New Orleans Serenaders, and







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