The short, beautiful lyrics in this post come to you courtesy of the incomparable American composer Stephen Foster.

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He became famous during his lifetime and many of his Civil War-era songs like My Old Kentucky Home and Oh! Susannah! are still played and sung today.

Despite his great talent, Foster was not a prosperous man, as the world goes; he never seemed to profit much from the enormous popularity of his songs. There is a persistent legend that he was delighted when he received $100 for Oh! Susannah! – the only proceeds he ever received from the song.

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His last years were especially trying. Foster was grief-stricken when his parents died, and his inability to capitalize on his fame only seemed to aggravate his depression. The circumstances put a heavy strain on his marriage to wife Jane, and she left him, taking their small daughter with her. Foster then moved into a squalid hotel in New York City, where he struggled to compose while living in abject poverty.

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The American composer Stephen Foster wrote many beloved songs, and perhaps the most famous is Beautiful Dreamer. Foster wrote the song near the end of his life, after his wife left him and his health was failing. Beautiful Dreamer earned a fortune, but it had not yet been published when Foster died in January 1864. His pockets contained just 38¢, and a scrap of paper bearing the words “Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts”.

In Stephen Foster's handwriting
In Stephen Foster’s handwriting

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