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American song composer; one of the most gifted and inspired song composers, whose songs include some of the most imperishable the world has known, such as "Oh, Susanna!", "Old Folks at Home", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair", "Beautiful Dreamer", "Old Black Joe", "My Old Kentucky Home", and "Ring De Banjo".
Foster’s songs are typically divided into "Parlor" and "Plantation" melodies. Because of the racial stereotyping in the lyrics, the latter (typically superior to the former Parlor melodies) are nonetheless neglected in both literature and music classrooms. Nonetheless, to some degree, all contemporary American music owes a significant debt to those melodies, including their syncopation and melodic piquancy (cf. Alec Wilder, *American Popular Song*).
Despite his relative isolation from central European concert tradition, Foster must rank, with Franz Schubert, as one of the most inspired art song writers in the history of western music.