Rather than defining Foster by his now-controversial minstrel songs, JoAnne OâConnell reveals a prolific composer who concealed his true feelings in his lyrics and wrote in diverse styles to satisfy the changing tastes of his generation. In a trenchant reevaluation of his NewYork Bowery years, OâConnell illustrates how Foster purposely abandoned the style for which he was famous to write lighthearted songs for newly popular variety stages and music halls. In the last years of his life, Fosterâs new direction in songwriting stood in the vanguard of vaudeville and musical comedy to pave the way for the future of American popular music. His stylistic flexibility in the face of evolving audience preferences not only proves his versatility as a composer but also reveals important changes in the American music and publishing industries.
An intimate biography of a complex, controversial, and now neglected composer, The Life and Songs of Stephen Foster is an important story about the father of American music. This invaluable portrait of the political, economic, social, racial, and gender issues of antebellum and Civil War America will appeal to history and music lovers of all generations.
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