Stephen C. Foster — Darkey Music

My mom has the Scribner Music Library which has something like 10-11 volumes of piano music in books. I principally play out of one of the books that is classical and early romantic music and sometimes out of another, which is mostly romantic music. But yesterday I decided to flip through some of the other volumes,which have titles like ‘grand opera excerpts,’ ‘sacred music,’ etc.

One book titled ‘Favorite songs of every character’ has a section with music by Stephen C. Foster—the man who brought you ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ and ‘Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.’ Wikipedia lists him as the “father of American music.”

Among those more benign well-known songs, he has a list of some other “greats” of American music such as Camptown Races (Gwine to run all night), Massa’s in De Cold Ground, Ring, Ring De Banjo, Old Black Joe, and let us not forget, Oh! Boys Carry Me ‘Long. He transitions so easily from proper English to the “negro vernacular” capturing the essence of how the happy slaves must have sounded when they spoke.

Let’s sample some of the lyrics:

Camptown Races-

De camptown ladies sing dis song, doo-dah! doo-dah! de camptown race track five miles long, Oh! Doo-dah day! I come down dah wid my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah! I go back home wid a pocket full of tin, Oh! Doo-dah day! Gwine to run all night, gwine to run all day! I’ll bet my money on a bobtail nag, Somebody bet on de bay.

Massa’s In De Cold Ground-

Round de meadows am a ringing, de darkey’s mounful song, while de mocking bird am singing, happy as de day am long, where de ivy am a creeping, o’er de grassy mound, dare old massa am a sleeping, sleeping in de cold, cold ground. Back in de corn-field, hear dat mournful sound, all de darkies am a weeping, massa’s in de cold, cold ground.

Ring, Ring de Banjo-

De time is nevver dreary, if de darkey nevver groans, de ladies nebber weary wid de rattle ob de bones; den come a gain susanna, by de gas light ob de moon, we’ll turn de old pianna when de banjos out ob tune,

and my favorite-Oh! Boys Carry Me ‘Long-

Oh! carry me ‘long, der’s no more trouble for me. I’s gwine to roam in a happy home Where all de niggas am free. I’s worked long in de fields, I’s handled many a hoe, I’ll turn my eye jes’ before I die An’ see de sugar cane grow. Oh! boys, carry me ‘long; carry me till I die; Carry me down to de buryin’ groun,’ Massa don’t you cry.