Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) was the pre-eminent songwriter in America in the 19th century and he is known as the 'father of American music'. Among the best known are Beautiful Dreamer, Old Folks at Home and Old Kentucky Home, which is the offical state song of Kentucky.
His songs are still extremely popular and in April 2004, in an interview with the LA Times music critic Robert Hilburn, Bob Dylan said, ‘Anyone who wants to be a songwriter should listen to as much folk music as they can, study the form and structure of stuff that has been around for 100 years. I go back to Stephen Foster.’
As a result of that interview American Roots Publishing decided to celebrate his legacy with a CD entitled Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster. Steve Fischell, producer of the tribute CD said that Dylan’s quote was our inspiration for this project.’ The artists featured on the CD included such well-known singers as Alison Krauss and John Prine.
Stephen Foster was of Scotch-Irish descent and the family was very much aware of its Ulster ancestry. Stephen's brother Morrison Foster (1823-1904) was a member of the Scotch-Irish Society of America. Their father William Barclay Foster was a businessman in Pittsburgh and his grandfather Alexander Foster (1710-1767) emigrated from Londonderry around 1728.