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Stephen Foster

所属教程:People in America 更新:10-19
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VOICE 1:

I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE 2:

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Graphic Image

And I'm Steve Ember with the VOASpecial English program People in America. Today, we tell aboutStephen Foster, America's first popular professional songwriter.

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VOICE 1:

You may have heard the old traditional American songs "Oh!Susanna," "Camptown Races" and "My Old Kentucky Home. " But, do youknow who wrote them. Stephen Foster. He wrote those and more thantwo hundred other songs during the eighteen-forties andeighteen-fifties.

His best songs have become part of America's cultural history.They have become American folk songs. Many people in America learnedto sing these songs when they were children. Most Americans can singthese songs today.

VOICE 2:

Stephen Collins Foster was born on July fourth,eighteen-twenty-six, in what is now part of the city of Pittsburgh,in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania. He was the ninth child ofWilliam and Eliza Foster. He did not have much musical training. Buthe had a great natural ability for music. He taught himself to playseveral musical instruments. He could play any music just bylistening to it.

Stephen Foster began writing songs when he was fourteen. Ineighteen-forty-seven, he wrote his first successful song, "Oh!Susanna. "

Ken Emerson wrote a book about Stephen Foster. It is called"Doo-Dah! Stephen Foster and the rise of American popular culture. "Mr. Emerson says "Oh! Susanna" was the first internationally popularsong written by an American that everyone can still recognize andsing today.

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VOICE 1:

Stephen Foster married Jane McDowell in eighteen-fifty. He wrotemany new songs. Some of them were about love. One of the best knownis "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair " He wrote it for his wife whenthey were separated.

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VOICE 2:

Stephen Foster wrote almost thirty songs for minstrel shows.Minstrel shows became popular in the United States in theeighteen-forties. White entertainers blackened their faces andperformed as if they were black entertainers. Minstrel showsincluded music, dance and comedy. The shows were performed in almostevery major American city, especially in the northeast. One ofFoster's songs written for minstrel shows is "Camptown Races."Today, it is a popular song for children.

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VOICE 1:

Minstrel songs described the culture of black American slaves inthe southern states. Yet Foster did not really know anything aboutthis subject. He lived in Pittsburgh for most of his life. Hevisited the south only once.

However, some experts say Foster's minstrel songs showed he didunderstand how black people in the south lived before the Civil War.The people in Foster's songs love their families and work hard. Now,however, some of his songs are judged insulting toAfrican-Americans. So, music publishers have changed some of thewords. And a few of his songs are no longer sung.

VOICE 2:

In eighteen-fifty, Foster made an agreement with the leader of asuccessful minstrel group, E.P. Christy. The agreement meant thatChristy's minstrels had the right to perform every new song Fosterwrote. Foster also permitted Christy to name himself as the writerof the song "Old Folks at Home. " This became one of most successfulsongs written by Stephen Foster. It became the official song of thestate of Florida in nineteen-thirty-five. It also is known as "WayDown Upon the Swanee River. "

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VOICE 1:

Stephen Foster wrote other songs about home and memories of timespast. In his book, ken Emerson says Foster wrote songs about home inpart because he almost never lived in one home for long. His fatherlost all his money when Stephen was a boy. So Stephen was forced tolive with many different family members. Although Foster lived inthe north, some of his songs suggest a desire to be back home in theAmerican south.

VOICE 2:

"My Old Kentucky Home" is an example. Mr. Emerson says Fosterwrote the song in honor of Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slaverybook, "Uncle Tom's Cabin." "My Old Kentucky Home" expresses greatsympathy for enslaved African Americans. The black anti-slaveryactivist Frederick Douglass praised the song. It later became theofficial song of the state of Kentucky.

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VOICE 1:

Stephen Foster was America's first full-time professionalsongwriter. He was a good songwriter. But he was a poor businessman.He sold many of his most famous songs for very little money. He wasnot able to support his wife and daughter.

In eighteen-sixty, he moved to New York City. His songs were notas popular as they had been. His marriage had ended. He had nomoney. For most of his life, he drank large amounts of alcohol. Hedied on January thirteenth, eighteen-sixty-four. He was onlythirty-seven years old.

VOICE 2:

Stephen Foster was honored in several ways after his death. Hewas the first musician to be nominated to the hall of fame for greatAmericans. And he was the first American composer whose completeworks were published together. Each year, on the anniversary of hisdeath, people in Pittsburgh gather to remember Stephen Foster. Theygo to the church he attended as a child. They attend a show thathonors him. Then they visit his burial place.

The end of Stephen Foster's life was sad. But his songs havebrought happiness to many people. One of his last songs was one ofthe most beautiful. It is called "Beautiful Dreamer. "

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VOICE 1:

This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. Itwas produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE 2:

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another Peoplein America program on the Voice of America.

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