1. Hard Times

From the recording We Are Born Blind

I took the lyrics of this 1855 Stephen Foster song and put it to my own music.

Stephen Foster was born in Pittsburg on the 4th of July 1826. He was the pre-eminent songwriter of his era. He is often credited as "America's First Composer". Many of his we still know today - more than 150 years after his death, such as his first hit song “Oh Susanna” or Camptown Races”. If you go to the Kentucky Derby you will hear the crowd sing, “My Old Kentucky Home”.

Altogether, he wrote more than 200 songs. Most were about life in the South - though he visited the south only once when he went to New Orleans on his honeymoon.

His music appears racist if viewed by today’s standard. However, rather than exploit the subjects of his early music and lyrics, Foster insisted that they be treated with sympathy and respect. Foster grew more ambivalent about "Ethiopian" songs he wrote early in his career, and he began offering a different image, that of the black as a human being experiencing pain, love, joy, even nostalgia. "Nelly Was a Lady" (1849) is an eloquent lament of a slave for his loved one who has died, apparently the first song written by a white composer for the white audience of the minstrel shows that portrays a black man and woman as loving husband and wife, and insists on calling the woman a "lady," which was a term reserved for well-born white women.

Music publishing was just beginning back then and though in today's music industry he would be worth millions of dollars a year, he saw very little money in the form of royalties as his work was routinely pirated by publishers who made tens of thousands dollars (Not much has changed if you has Taylor Swift and the Paul McCartney).
His career ended with the Civil War, when songs about the South fell out of popularity. He died impoverished in 1864 at age 37 while living in a hotel on the lower east side of Manhattan, having just 38 cents in his pocket and a scrap of paper with the words “Dear friends and gentle hearts” written on it.



Let us all pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup in sorrow with the poor
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh! Hard Times don’t come again no more


'Tis the song of the weary–hard times don’t
Come here no more
Many days you have lingered
Around my cabin door

Oh! Hard Times don’t come again
Oh! Hard Times don’t come again
Oh! Hard Times don’t come again
No more

While we seek mirth and beauty
And music light and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door:
Though their voices are silent
Their pleading looks do say
Oh! Hard Times come again no more

There's a pale worn maiden who
Toils her life away
With a tired heart whose better days are o'er
Though her voice would be merry
It is sighing all the day
Oh! Hard Times, come again no more.

'Tis a sigh that is carried
Across the troubled waves
'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh! Hard Times, come again no more.


'Tis the song of the weary
Hard Times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered
Around my cabin door
Oh! Hard Times don’t come again
Oh! Hard Times don’t come again
Oh! Hard Times don’t come again no more.