My namesake (for my given names) was early American composer Stephen Foster, so I was interested to discover that he apparently inspired the songwriters for the subject of today’s Anatomy Of A Song. It seems that a note was found on him after his 1864 death, and it was addressed to ‘Dear friends and gentle hearts’, a phrase that helped Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard create their 1949 song, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People.”
This song is another of those that seems so familiar that I’m sure we had the record around the house while I was growing up. I think we had Bing Crosby’s version, but in its early years it was also recorded by Dinah Shore, Gordon MacRae, Patti Page and several others, including Gene Autry.
An interesting quirk about the song is that even though it was usually performed with lyrics that just referred to an indeterminate ‘home’, it would occasionally be customized to include locations that were meaningful to a particular vocalist. For example, Bing Crosby’s version specified Idaho, next door to his home state of Washington (which might have been too difficult to rhyme).
Dinah Shore embraced her home state of Tennessee in her version, and that seemed to lead to a few others using her state — even Perry Como sang about it and he was from the Pittsburgh area. But British singer Doreen Lundy might have had the last laugh when she sang that her home was ‘NOT in Tennessee’ — a fact that wouldn’t exactly shock her fans.