Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stephen Foster: 150 Years Gone

ALLEGHENY CEMETERY, PITTSBURGH -- Every year since at least 1923, on January 13th -- the anniversary of Stephen Foster's death -- a ceremony is held at the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood where Foster is buried. Yesterday's event saw a pretty good turnout because of a notable milestone:  150 years since Foster's death at the ungodly age of 37.

Children sang, historians spoke (and also sang), and the rest of us sang, too. And Joe Negri, known to many as Handyman Negri of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, played his jazz mash-up of "Ring Ring the Banjo" and "Swanee River" with some "Nelly Bly" and "Oh! Susanna" tossed in the mix.

Stephen Foster music is timeless. I included "Camptown Races" in my novel, Prisoner 88. Kentucky and Florida use Stephen Foster songs as their state songs. Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young have recently recorded "Oh! Susanna" and "Hard Times Come Again no More." Rest in Peace, Stephen Foster.

In Oakland near the Carnegie Museum.


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