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Saturday’s Songs – Hard Times Come Again No More

February 22, 2010

Because I was on the road this weekend, I wasn’t able to post my weekly Saturday’s Songs, though I thought of one as I drove to Highland Park, New Jersey for a book reading/signing for my novel, Love’s Compass.

As it turns out, the song I thought of will have to wait – because today would have been my father’s 90th birthday, had he lived past age 76.  With thoughts of him in mind, I share with you a song written by Stephen Foster, who my father talked of to me more than once – always with high regard and perhaps disappointment that Foster’s reputation as the father of American music was not fully carried forward to my generation.

My father had a beautiful singing voice, and keen interest in a variety of music; classical, American folk, and contemporary included. Some nights he’d hum a tune at the dinner table and ask us if we knew the song. He was humming songs by James Taylor, Dionne Warwick, and Glen Campbell. He would have heard them on the radio, as music was piped into the operating room while he performed surgery. And though the sound of rock and roll didn’t appeal to him, he sometimes would find the lyrics of interest.

I know he’d be overwhelmed by the staging of this version of Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” – a song that resonates in today’s economic climate. (I’ve included the lyrics below the youtube video.) But he’d be glad that in September 2009, a popular rock band chose it as the first song of its encore while touring in Greenville, South Carolina.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Hard Times Come Again No More
by Stephen Foster
Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times 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 will say
Oh hard times come again no more.
There’s a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o’er:
Though her voice would be merry, ’tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.
Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
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.
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