The singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” at the fantabulous annual Kentucky Derby is almost as big a deal as the Derby itself.
In fact, it may last longer and certainly has more participants!
What a tradition, what a beautiful tradition…and a beautiful song as well.
But who wrote “My Old Kentucky Home”?
That would be the brilliant 19th century poet/songwriter Stephen Foster.
Born on the 4th of July in Pennsylvania in 1826, Stephen Collins Foster is credited with composing some of this country’s most beloved and performed songs, including “Beautiful Dreamer,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” and “Oh! Susanna.”
According to NNDB, “He was the youngest child of a merchant of Irish descent who became a member of the state legislature and was related by marriage to President James Buchanan.”
His chief early success was gained by writing songs used in “black-face” minstrel shows, such as those made popular by E.P. Christy, leader of Christy’s Minstrels.
“Foster attempted to make a living as a professional songwriter and may be considered a pioneer in this respect, since this field did not yet exist in the modern sense. Consequently, due in part to the poor provisions for music copyright and composer royalties at the time, Foster saw very little of the profits which his works generated for sheet music printers. Multiple publishers often printed their own competing editions of Foster’s tunes, paying Foster nothing. For ‘Oh, Susanna,’ he received $100.” —Wikipedia.