Stephen Foster (July 4, 1826 - January 13, 1864), considered the "father of American music" , was an influential songwriter to the States During the XIX century. His songs, such as Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, My Old Kentucky Home, Old Black Joe, Beautiful Dreamer and Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) remain popular even long after their composition. Mickey Newbury dedicates his album Lulled By The Moonlight
Foster was born in Lawrenceville, (now part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), the youngest of 10 children from a middle-class family that he will soon be following after his father's fall in alcoholism. He spends a month at the university but does little musical studies. Despite this, he composed several songs before the age of twenty. His first song, "Open Thy Lattice Love," was written when he was 18 years old.
During his teens Stephen was considerably influenced by two men: Henry Kleber (1816-1897) and Dan Rice (1823-1901). The first was a classical musician, an immigrant from Darmstadt, who opened a music store in Pittsburgh and was one of Foster's few music teachers. The second was an entertainer - a clown and a musician who played blackface, touring circuses. These two very different musical worlds created a tension for young Foster. Although respectful of more civilized parlor songs, he and his friends often sat at the piano, writing and singing minstrel songs at night. Later, Foster would learn to mix both genres to write some of his best works.
In 1846 Foster left for Cincinnati, Ohio and became an accountant in his brother's steamship company. While in Cincinnati Foster registered his first success, among them "Oh! Susanna ", which will be the hymn of the gold diggers of California in 1848/1849. In 1849 he published a collection of Ethiopian Melodies by Foster, which included the song "Nelly Was a Lady", made famous by the Christy Minstrels.