STEPHEN FOSTER, American composer, born (d: 1864); Like Yankee Doodle, the composer Stephen Foster was born on the Fourth of July. His list of sentimental down-home hits—“Oh Susanna,” “Old Folks At Home,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Jeannie with The Light Brown Hair,” and “Old Black Joe”—make the jingoistic George M. Cohan appear strident and un-American by comparison.
Flag-waving or no, what made fireworks go off for this star-spangled tune-smith was another composer – George Cooper, a handsome young man who is best known today for his “Sweet Genevieve,” a song perhaps best sung as a barbershop quartet, when drunk. So taken was Foster with sweet George Cooper that he abandoned his wife and family to run away with him. So, as you put out the bunting to celebrate the glorious Fourth, think of Stephen Foster, grand old American composer, “gwine to Lusiana” with George Cooper, not a banjo, on his knee.