Playlist: The Songs of Stephen Foster

Stephen Foster is considered the “Father of American Music.” I happen to be his kin. Which means that as a child, his songs were forced on me. However, people like Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan and the Byrds reintroduced me to his music later on in life. As an adult, I’ve grown to appreciate his mark on the history of popular American songwriting.

Perhaps due to my early immersion into Foster’s work, I now have a penchant for Americana and songs about the old South. And though many of Foster’s songs were about the South (including the state song of Kentucky, “My Old Kentucky Home”), like myself, he was actually a Northerner.


The story of Stephen Foster is something of a tragic one. He died penniless at the age of 37 (he bled to death at the hotel on the Bowery in NYC he was living at, after falling and splitting his head open on a washtub basin.) Foster never did reap the benefits of of his legacy. At the time of his death, his worn out wallet was found, containing a scrap of paper that simply said “Dear friends and gentle hearts” along with 35 cents in Civil War scrip and three pennies.



1. Oh Susanna – The Byrds

2. My Old Kentucky Home – John Prine

3. Hard Times – Johnny Cash

4. Don’t Bet Money On The Shanghai – Br5-49

5. Beautiful Dreamer – Roy Orbison

6. Nely Was A Lady – Alvin Youngblood Hart

7. Comrades Fill No Glass For Me – Ron Sexsmith

8. Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) – David Ball

9. Hard Times – Emmylou Harris & The Nash Ramblers

10. Camptown Races – Don Gibson

11. Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair – Rocger McGuinn

12. Slumber My Darling – Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor & Alison Krauss

13. Surfin’ Down The Swanee River – The Honeys (Brian Wilson)

14. Nickle For The Fiddler (Oh Susanna) – Guy Clark

15. Hard Times – Bob Dylan

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