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Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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    Biographies - The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America - Digital Collections

    Short biographies are available for some of the many composers, lyricists, performers, conductors, field collectors, and folklorists who have played a part in the history of American songs.

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    Stephen Collins Foster, 1826-1864

    Austin, William W. "Susanna", "Jeanie", and "The Old Folks at Home":  The Songs of Stephen C. Foster from His Time to Ours. 2d ed. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988.

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    Charles Griffes,1884-1920

    Upton, William Treat. "The Songs of Charles T. Griffes." Musical Quarterly 9, no. 3 (July 1923): 314-28.

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    Francis Hopkinson, 1737-1791

    Upton, William Treat. Art-Song in America: A Study in the Development of American Music. Boston: Oliver Ditson Co., 1930.

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    Charles Ives, 1874-1954

    Swafford, Jan. Charles Ives : A Life With Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.

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    Ernst Bacon, 1898-1990

    ________. Words on Music. Syracuse University Press, 1960.

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    Leonard Bernstein, 1918-1990

    Biography. Bernstein died in New York on October 14, 1990.

    • Contributor: Bernstein, Leonard
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    Charles Martin Loeffler, 1861-1935

    Knight, Ellen. Charles Martin Loeffler: A Life Apart in American Music. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

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    Walter Damrosch, 1862-1950

    Martin, George. The Damrosch Dynasty: America's First Family of Music. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983.

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    Arthur Farwell (1872-1952)

    Biography. Waters, Edward N. "The Wa-Wan Press: An Adventure in Musical Idealism." In A Birthday Offering to C[arl] E[ngel], comp. and ed. Gustave Reese, 214-33. New York: G. Schirmer, 1943.

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    H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949)

    Biography. Simpson, Anne Key. "Hard Trials: The Life and Music of Harry T. Burleigh." Composers of North America, no. 8. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1990.

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    Scott Joplin, 1868-1917

    Biography. Biography. Sedalia continues to celebrate its unique ragtime heritage with the annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival held under the auspices of the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation (http://www.scottjoplin.org).

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    Ben Harney, 1872-1938

    Biography. Biography. Harney later played a world tour, leaving the stage in the early 1920s, when health issues made it impossible for him to continue his career. He retired to Philadelphia, where he died in poverty in 1938.

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    John Stark, 1841-1927

    Biography. Biography. Because of business disagreements, Joplin eventually left Stark for other publishers. Nevertheless, Stark was successful enough to move to New York where he competed with the myriad publishers of Tin Pan Alley. After a profitable career as a ragtime publisher, Stark returned to St. Louis, where he died in November 1927.

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    Joseph Lamb, 1887-1960

    Biography. Biography. Lamb died in September of 1960 in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, recognition of his contributions to ragtime came only at the end of his life.

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    James Scott, 1885-1938

    Biography. Biography. Scott, Joplin, and Joseph Lamb form the acknowledged triumvirate of ragtime greats. In many ways, Scott's pieces were more virtuosic than those of his two colleagues'--except for some of Lamb's "heavy" rags.

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    May Aufderheide, 1888-1972

    Biography. Biography. Despite a serious grounding in art music, Aufderheide turned her attentions to ragtime. Her first rag, "Dusty," was published in 1908, the same year that she wed Thomas Kaufman. The early years of her marriage inspired a series of other compositions, among them "The Richmond Rag," "The Thriller Rag," and the "Novelty Rag."

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    Will Accooe (d. 1904)

    Biography. Biography. Accooe also composed for other musicals. Williams and Walker's The Sons of Ham (1900) included some Accooe material. He also wrote a musical in 1901 with Will Marion Cook called The Cannibal King, but this was never staged.

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    Alton A. Adams

    Biography. Biography. Alton Augustus Adams, born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, remains an iconic figure there. When the United States took over the islands in 1917, the new governor appointed Adams chief musician. The band that Adams assembled entered the U.S. Navy as a unit, making Adams the first black bandmaster to serve in the U.S. Navy. He composed a great deal of ...

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    Maurice Arnold, 1865-1937

    Biography. Biography. Maurice Arnold was one of many African-American students of Antonin Dvorak during Dvorak's 1894 stay in the United States. Arnold participated in Dvorak's famous January 23, 1894, concert at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Arnold's four "American Plantation Dances" were performed at the conservatory and garnered him a small measure of fame. He was also the author of ...

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    Eubie Blake, 1883-1983

    Biography. Biography. Blake was one of the principle figures of the ragtime and early jazz revival of the 1970s, giving talks and performances well into his nineties. In 1979 the musical Eubie was created from his work; Blake himself made several cameo appearances in performances. Eubie Blake passed away shortly after his 100th birthday.

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    J. Tim Brymn, 1881-1946

    Biography. Biography. After the revival of black musicals in 1921, Brymn immediately returned to stage work, appearing in Put and Take and conducting the orchestra for Liza. In 1923 Brymn introduced the "Black Bottom" dance to the world at large as part of the musical Dinah. Brymn also wrote several blues songs during the 1920s blues craze. In the 1930s Brymn conducted American military ...

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    Bob Cole, 1868-1911

    Biography. Biography. James Weldon Johnson later referred to Cole as "the single greatest force in the middle period of the development of black theatricals in America." Although he is still not well known today, history bears out much of Johnson's claim. Cole was one of the handful of truly pioneering black composers and performers of his time.

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    Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 1875-1912

    Biography. Biography. In England, Coleridge-Taylor continued an active life in music. He composed, taught at Trinity College of Music, conducted numerous choral societies, and even conducted in the famed Handel Society from 1904 until his death. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died on September 1, 1912, of pneumonia contracted due to overwork.

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    Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. Cook also followed his own advice. Thomas Riis, in his study of early black musical theater, singles out Cook's remarkable harmonic skill and compositional sophistication. When the pursuit of his classical career was stymied, Cook brought his exceptional talent to bear on popular music, perhaps paving the way for the marriage of popular spirit and classical complexity which became jazz. Either ...