- Old Folks at Home
"Old Folks at Home"
Music by Stephen Foster Lyrics by Stephen Foster Published 1851 Language English Form Strophic with chorus
"Old Folks at Home" (also known as "Swanee River") is a minstrel song written by Stephen Foster in 1851. It was intended to be performed by the New York blackface troupe Christy's Minstrels. E. P. Christy, the troupe's leader, appears on early printings of the sheet music as the song's creator. Christy had paid Foster to be credited, something Foster himself had suggested though later regretted. It has been the official state song of Florida since 1935.
According to legend, Foster had most of the lyrics but was trying to give a name to the river of the opening line and asked his brother to suggest one. The first suggestion was "Yazoo" (in Mississippi), which despite fitting the melody perfectly, Foster rejected. The second suggestion was "Pee Dee" (in South Carolina), to which Foster said, "Oh pshaw! I won't have that." His brother then consulted an atlas and called out "Suwannee!" Foster said "That's it exactly!" He wrote it in immediately (misspelling it "Swanee" to fit the melody). Foster himself never saw the Suwannee or even visited Florida, but the popularity of the song initiated tourism to Florida to see the river.
This song is seen by some as racist toward black Americans for its imitation of Black English Vernacular (the song is sung from the perspective of a black man), with its original lyrics referring to "darkies" and "a-longin' for the old plantation." Foster himself supported the North during the American Civil War and sympathized with African-Americans. In 1997, former state representative Willy Logan presented an unsuccessful motion to have the song replaced. For many public performances, words like "lordy," "mama," "darling," "brothers" or "dear ones" are often used in place of "darkies."
As the official state song of Florida, it had become a tradition for the tune to be performed as part of the inauguration ceremony for incoming Florida governors. However, Charlie Crist decided not to include it in his 2007 inauguration ceremony. In its place, Crist decided upon "The Florida Song," a composition written by Charles Atkins, an African-American jazz musician born in Daytona Beach who now lives in Tallahassee.
In May 2007, the Florida Music Educators Association began working in partnership with Senator Tony Hill and Representative Ed Homan to present an initiative in which all of Florida's citizens were invited to submit their entries for a new state song. From the press release: "The process officially begins Tuesday (May 15) for Florida's musicians to submit their entries for 'Just Sing, Florida!', the search for a new state song." The Florida Music Educators' Association (FMEA) created a new web site, http://justsingflorida.org/ , which contained rules and submission guidelines. On January 11, 2008, the song "Florida (Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky)" was selected as the winner and will be brought up before the state legislature as a possible replacement for "Old Folks At Home".  The Florida legislature considered the issue and ultimately adopted "Where The Sawgrass Meets The Sky" as the state anthem and kept "Old Folks At Home" as the state song.
- ^ a b c Center for American Music. "Old Folks at Home". Center for American Music Library. http://www.pitt.edu/~amerimus/ofah.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-29.
- ^ "Florida State Song The Swanee River". Netstate. http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/song/fl_swanee_river.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-29.
- ^ "Lauderdale teacher wins state song vote". http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking_news/story/375900.html.
- Closeup of Foster's notebook page with first draft of "Old Folks at Home", including substitution of "Pedee" with "Swannee"
- Old Folks at Home, from the Center for American Music, home of the Foster Hall Collection
- New York Times article on Foster mentioning "Old Folks at Home"
- www.negrophile.com article on lyrics, alternate state songs
- Recording of "Old Folks at Home" at the 1955 Florida Folk Festival; made available for public use by the State Archives of Florida
- Alternate recording by The 97th Regimental String Band
Stephen Foster SongsMinstrel songs: Angelina Baker · Camptown Races · Don't Bet Your Money on de Shanghai (1861) · The Glendy Burk (1860) · Lou'siana Belle (1847) · Massa's in de Cold Ground (1852) · My Brodder Gum (1849) · My Old Kentucky Home · Nelly Bly · Nelly Was a Lady · Oh! Lemuel · Oh! Susanna (1848) · Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) ·
Parlor songs: Ah! May the Red Rose Live Alway! · Beautiful Dreamer (1864) · Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming · Hard Times Come Again No More · Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair · Old Black Joe · Old Dog Tray (1853) · Open Thy Lattice Love (1844) · Some Folks (1855) · Willie We Have Missed You (1854) ·
Civil War songs: Nothing But a Plain Old Soldier (1863) · A Soldier in the Colored Brigade (1863) · That's What's the Matter (1862) ·
People and PlacesPeople: Christy Minstrels · Dan Bryant · Dan Emmett · Dan Rice · Edwin Pearce Christy · Elizabeth Cochrane · Fletcher Hodges, Jr. · Henry Kleber · Jane McDowell Foster ·
Places: Allegheny, Pennsylvania · Allegheny Cemetery · Baltimore, Maryland · Cincinnati, Ohio · New York City · Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Suwannee River · Warren, Ohio ·
PublishersF. D. Benteen · Firth, Pond & Co. · Firth, Son & Co. · John J. Daly · W. C. Peters & Co. · Wm. A. Pond & Co. · Films, musicals, recordingsFilms: Harmony Lane · I Dream of Jeanie · Swanee River ·
Musicals: Stephen Foster - The Musical ·
Recordings: Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster ·
Culture Halls of Fame and State Parks Other
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