Sunday, July 3, 2011

Americana....Happy Birthday Stephen Foster

America is a dream.... where everyone can get a pretty good life if they only work hard. Of course this is not true. Every human that has ever lived and doesn't lie to themselves....Knows that luck has a lot to do with having a pretty good life.
The dream of freedom, the dream of rewards, the dream of equality, the dream of balancing laws with liberty.....America is a work in Progress.

All over the globe, people love our Americana. Our American songs, our American inventions....and our dreams. Levis, cowboy boots, fast cars, baseball, apple pie and Moms.
I love to find vintage Americana, because I love to honor the hard work, ingenuity, and good luck of things made right here in America.

While we most associate America with success stories, like Levi Strauss and J.C. Penney, there are other stories of hard work, talent and perseverance that do not bring money or glory.

---- Levis vintage 501 jeans----
Levi Strauss invented the modern blue jean made of indigo-dyed cotton denim, beginning in 1853.

A quintessential American story, that details the more common tale of a hard-working American talent, is the fatalistic short life of the beloved and other-worldly talent possessed by Stephen Foster, who wrote some of the most iconic American songs ever penned in America's 233-ish years.

Stephen Foster was born on July 4, 1826 near Pittsburgh. He composed the popular music of the day in the middle of the 19th century. He wrote minstrel songs and sentimental songs and possessed an immense inborn musical talent.

His family's servant took the boy to her church on Sunday, and he was introduced to the minstrel and the working class songs of the black culture. As a child, he was greatly influenced by the music he heard in the Pittsburgh church the negroes attended in segregated times in the North. This led to his belief that his writing should show negroes as human beings and not just as caricatures. It was very important to Foster to end slavery, to make America a place of the promise of equality.

---- JC Penneys vintage 60s shirt ----
Opened as the Golden Rule store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, 1902.

Oh!Susanna  was written in 1848 when he was 22, and sold for $100. (The California Gold Rush would start the next year, and Oh! Susanna became the "theme" song ! The Gold Rush helped Mr. Levi Strauss invent the blue jean, he called "waist overalls").

The next year he contracted with Firth, Pond & Co Publishers, and wrote  Swanee River. In 1850 he married Jane MacDowell, and they had a daughter. In 1852 they visited the South, Foster intent on becoming the best Negro minstrel song writer. Foster's only songwriting income was the royalty on sheet-music sales since there were no albums, no radio or iPod. He earned about  $15091.00 during his life and very little from performances of his songs. Eventually he sold all his rights for about $1900.00, equivalent to nearly $46,000.00 in today's dollars.
Stephen Foster's song royalties would be worth millions today. The profits from his immensely popular songs went to others.

In the 1850's, Foster's wife left him, his best friend died and both his parents died. This song Hard Times Come Again No More, was written in 1854.

Being an artist and not a far-thinking CPA or MBA, in 1857 he fell on hard times. By 1860 hard times ravaged his morale and he sank deeply into alcoholism, and went back to New York City and lived with his wife and daughter, who left him the next year.
During the Civil War era, he wrote many more songs and handed them to his publisher for a small amount of money without a contract. The uncertain economic times, left music publishers unable to pay a fair amount to artists. Stephen Foster lived in poverty and died a pauper in 1864 at the age of 37.

He penned about 200 songs, often writing both the lyrics and music.
A very short list:
Hard Times No More,  Swanee River,  Camptown Races,  Nelly Bly,  My Old Kentucky Home,  Oh! Susanna,  Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,  Beautiful Dreamer.

---- Converse ----
Converse sport shoes began when Marquis M. Converse opened the doors of the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Malden, Mass., in 1908.