Thursday, January 27, 2000

100 years ago: Vess Ossman charted with “The Old Folks at Home”

The Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)

Len Spencer

Writer(s): Stephen Foster (see lyrics here)

First Charted: August 13, 1892

Peak: 16 US (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 20.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

The Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)

Vess Ossman

First Charted: January 27, 1900

Peak: 2 US, 17 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 20.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards (Spencer):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Ossman):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Stephen Foster was the pre-eminent songwriter of the 19th century in America. The Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee was born in 1826 and published hs first song in 1842. He had his first hit with “Oh! Susanna” in 1848 and “Camptown Races” in 1850. SS His “greatest triumph” was with “The Old Folks at Home,” also known as “Swanee River,” in 1851.

Ed P. Christy commissioned the minstrel song to be used by his troupe, Christy’s Minstrels. Christy was credited as the song’s creator on early sheet music printings WM because of a contractual agreement between him and Foster due to the latter’s concer that “an association with minstrel songs might damage his broader ambitions.” SS It meant Foster wasn’t credited (although he received royalties without recognition SS) from what became the most popular song ever published at that time WM with estimates as high as 20 million. PM Foster wouldn’t be credited until the copyright ran out in 1879, at which time he’d been dead sixteen years. SS

The melody was likely borrowed from “Annie Laurie” by Lady John Scott, a ballad published in Sir Thomas Moore’s classic Irish Melodies collection. SS Foster wrote most of the lyrics before settling in on the right name for the river in the opening line. His brother suggested the Yazoo River in Mississippi and the Pee Dee River in South Carolina before consulting an atlas and coming up with the Suwannee River in Florida. Foster said, “That’s it exactly!” WK He deliberately misspelled it as “Swanee” to fit the melody. WK

“For the first time, the two distinct categories of songs he had previously written, gentell parlor ballads and blackface-dialect numbers, merged into one.” SS The latter style involved writing in an exaggerated dialect to capture the language of the black slaves who worked cotton plantations before the Civil War, glorified antebellum Southern life. SFS “Swanee River” ended up sparking Florida tourism in the 1880s from people eager to see the “symbolic river and idyllic home” described by the song. WM Ironically, Foster himself never visited the state. WM In 1935, Florida named it their state song. The lyrics were revised in 2008 to eliminate racially offensive terms. SFS

It should be noted, though, that at the time Foster wrote the song, he was unusually sympathetic in his portrayal of a displaced slave, singing of loneliness and longing. He wrote the song about the slave’s feelings of isolation with enough vagueness that spoke to a wider, white audience. SS

The first charted version of the song came more than forty years after its publication when Len Spencer took it to #1 in 1892. It was one of nine versions to chart between 1892 and 1937. Other versions were by the Haydn Quartet (#4, 1904), Louise Homer (#6, 1905), Alma Gluck (#3, 1915), Taylor Trio (#4, 1916), Oscar Seagle (#8, 1919), Jimmie Lunceford (#19, 1936), and Bunny Berigan (#18, 1937). PM However, the highest ranked in Dave’s Music Database is the banjo instrumental by Vess Ossman. He was considered “The King of the Banjo” and “the foremost recorded ragtime musician of the original ragtime era.” PM


First posted 1/24/2020; last updated 4/5/2023.

Friday, January 14, 2000

Puccini’s Tosca world premiered 100 years ago today (1/14/1900)

First posted 10/16/2008; updated 1/10/2020.


Giacomo Puccini (composer)

Buy Here:

World Premiere: 1/14/1900 in Rome

U.S. Premiere: 2/4/1901

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: opera

Parts/Movements: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Act I:

  • No. 1a, "Ah! Finalmente!"
  • No. 1b, "E sempre lava!"
  • No. 1c, "Sante ampolle!"
  • No. 2, "Recondita armonia"
  • No. 3a, "Mario! Mario! Mario!"
  • No. 3b, "Perche chiuso?"
  • No. 3c, "Ora stammi a sentir"
  • No. 3d, "Non la sospiri"
  • No. 3e, "Or lasciami al lavoro"
  • No. 3f, "Ah, quegli occhi!"
  • No. 4, "E buona la mia Tosca"
  • No. 5, "Sommo giubilo"
  • No. 6a, "Un tal baccano in chiesa!"
  • No. 6b, "Fu grave sbaglio"
  • No. 7a, "Or tutto e chiaro"
  • No. 7b, "Tosca divina"
  • No. 7c, "O che v'offende"
  • No. 8, "Tre sbirri" (Te Deum)

    Act II:

  • No. 9a, "Tosca e un buon falco"
  • No. 9b, "Ella verra"
  • No. 10a, "Sale, ascende... A te quest'inno" (Cantata)
  • No. 10b, "Mario, tu qui?"
  • No. 11a, "La povera mia cena"
  • No. 11b, "Gia, mi dicon venal"
  • No. 12, "Vissi d'arte"
  • No. 13a, "Sei troppo bella"
  • No. 13b, "Tosca, finalmente mia!"

    Act III:

  • No. 14, Prelude
  • No. 15a, "Io de' sospiri"
  • No 15b, "Mario Cavaradossi?"
  • No. 16, "E lucevan le stelle"
  • No. 17a, "Franchigia a Floria Tosca"
  • No. 17b, "O dolci mani"
  • No. 17c, "Senti, l'ora e vicina"
  • No. 18a, "Amaro sol per te"
  • No. 18b, "Trionfa!... Di nova speme"
  • No. 19a, "Son pronto"
  • No. 19b, "Com'e lunga l'attesa!"

Total Running Time: 112:50


4.667 out of 5.00 (average of 3 ratings)


About the Album:

When Puccini started writing Tosca, he’d already composed four operas, including the popular La Bohème. In “a marked change from the late Romantic sentimentality” AMG of that work, Tosca was an exploration of “the dark side of human emotion.” AMG It “premiered in 1900 at Rome’s Teatro Costanzi to a temperate critical reception.” AMG

Puccini first came across Victorien Sardou’s play La Tosca in 1889, two years after its premiere. He didn’t start writing his opera based on the play until 1895, largely because of waning interest in the play, which may have been stirred by Sardou’s admission that he disliked Puccini’s music. AMG Eventually Giulio Ricordi, Puccini’s publisher, convince the composer to complete the opera. AMG

“Puccini creates coherence between story and music with themes that recur in association with characters and concepts. The opera begins as the orchestra states the low brass-laden three-chord motive outlining the sinister interval of a tritone (B flat major, A flat major, E major) that we come later in Act One to associate with the villainous confessor and executioner Scarpia. An expansive, major-mode theme, orchestrated for strings, is introduced in Act One as Tosca’s and Cavaradossi’s love music, and returns in Act Two, when Tosca enters Scarpia’s chamber and as Cavaradossi is led from the torture chamber to Tosca, and in Act Three, as pantomime music as Cavaradossi writes his farewell to Tosca.” AMG

Although the continuous swaths of sound in Puccini’s score avoid the sharp delineations between recitative and aria of earlier nineteenth century Italian operas, arias still function to uncover the emotions of the central characters in Tosca. Tosca utters her Act Two supplication Vissi d’arte in a soaring melodic idiom, reinforced by a rich harmonic language and orchestral palette.” AMG

“The cello melody that accompanied Tosca’s first entrance and meeting with Cavaradossi in Act One, here accompanies Tosca’s prayer, illustrating the extent to which love is Tosca’s true religion. In Cavaradossi’s Act Three aria, E lucevan le stelle, the orchestra sings with him at key utterances in desperately empty octaves.” AMG

“Puccini also upheld here the tradition of monumental end-of-act finales. The Act One finale (Tre sbirri...una carrozza) is a cleverly crafted juxtaposition of diagetic and non-diagetic music in which the Latin chorus of working-class believers singing the Te Deum and the intermittent utterances of the godless Scarpia mesh musically on different planes of realistic perception. The Act Two finale, which grows out of Tosca’s and Cavaradossi’s duet, is a tragic rush as Sciaronne, Spoletta, and a chorus of soldiers chase Tosca to her death. The E minor tonality that accompanied Scarpia’s death at Tosca’s hands in Act Two, here accompanies her own demise, and binds Tosca and Scarpia beyond their earthly entanglement.” AMG


The 1953 recording of Tosca, featuring Maria Callas, is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Review Sources:

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

3 Doors Down released “Kryptonite”


3 Doors Down

Writer(s): Brad Arnold, Matt Roberts, Todd Harrell (see lyrics here)

Released: January 11, 2000

First Charted: February 5, 2000

Peak: 3 US, 16 BA, 15 RR, 4 A40, 24 AA, 19 AR, 111 MR, 17 UK, 6 CN, 8 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 533.88 video, 783.97 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

3 Doors Down owes their first hit, and perhaps their career, to the fact that Brad Arnold, the band’s lead singer, was bad at math. As he says, when he was fifteen his teacher knew he wasn’t good at the subject, but let him go. Arnold entertained himself in class by writing, as he says, probably “about half of that Better Life album.” SF

One of those songs in particular started out as Arnold tapping on his desk. That became the beat for “Krpytonite.” SF It was, he says, only the third or fourth song he’d ever written. SF

Lyrically, the song is a series of questions like “If I fall down, will you be there for me?” and “If I go crazy, will you still call me Superman?” However, Arnold says, “It’s easy to be there for someone when they’re down. But it’s not always easy to be there for somebody when they’re doing good.” SF The song, therefore, became not about being there for someone in their time of need, but not being jealous when the person is successful.

Arnold says the song actually has very little to do with Superman, despite the line dropping his name and the title referencing the substance which renders the hero powerless. SF The video, however, capitalized on the hero angle, portraying an old man donning a superhero costume to chase down and capture a man who harasses and abducts a woman. WK


First posted 5/9/2020; last updated 8/8/2023.

Saturday, January 1, 2000

NPR: The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century


The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century

From “In 2000, National Public Radio assembled a list of the 300 most significant American recordings and compositions of the 20th century. The 300 works were selected by a panel of NPR music contributors, musicians, music historians, and music critics…The list features everything from jazz, gospel, and show tunes to punk, hip hop, and techno. They later narrowed the list to 100 as based on listener votes.”

The list was mostly songs, but oddly included some albums as well. This page focuses just on the songs. The original list was unranked, but they have been listed here based on their overall DMDB rank.

Click here to see other lists from publications and/or organizations.

Here are the 80 songs which ranked in the top 100:

1. Bing Crosby “White Christmas” (1942)
2. Bill Haley & the Comets “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock” (1954)
3. Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
4. Aretha Franklin “Respect” (1967)
5. The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” (1966)
6. Arthur Collins with Byron Harlan “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911)
7. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
8. Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife” (1959)
9. Otis Redding “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (1968)
10. Elvis Presley “Don’t Be Cruel” (1956)

11. Elvis Presley “Hound Dog” (1956)
12. Fred Astaire with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra “Night and Day” (1932)
13. Glenn Miller Orchestra “In the Mood” (1939)
14. Artie Shaw “Stardust” (1941)
15. Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong “St. Louis Blues” (1925)
16. The Doors “Light My Fire” (1967)
17. Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” (1971)
18. The Temptations “My Girl” (1965)
19. Billy Murray “Give My Regards to Broadway” (1905)
20. Ray Charles “What’d I Say” (1959)

21. Al Green “Let’s Stay Together” (1971)
22. Dooley Wilson “As Time Goes By” (1942)
23. The Weavers “Goodnight Irene” (1950)
24. Coleman Hawkins Orchestra “Body and Soul” (1940)
25. Patsy Cline “Crazy” (1961)
26. Duke Ellington “Mood Indigo” (1931)
27. Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes” (1956)
28. Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire” (1957)
29. Red Nichols “I Got Rhythm” (1930)
30. The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Purple Haze” (1967)

31. Paul Whiteman with George Gershwin “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924)
32. Duke Ellington “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941)
33. Ritchie Valens “La Bamba” (1958)
34. Buddy Holly & the Crickets “Peggy Sue” (1957)
35. Johnny Cash “I Walk the Line” (1956)
36. Harry James Orchestra with Frank Sinatra “All or Nothing at All” (1939)
37. Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963)
38. The Kingston Trio “Tom Dooley” (1958)
39. Chuck Berry “Maybellene” (1955)
40. James Taylor “Fire and Rain” (1970)

41. Woody Guthrie “This Land Is Your Land” (1940)
42. Isaac Hayes “Theme from Shaft” (1971)
43. The Sugarhill Gang “Rapper’s Delight” (1979)
44. James Brown “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (1965)
45. Benny Goodman Orchestra “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” (1938)
46. Fats Domino “Ain't That a Shame” (1955)
47. Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” (1980)
48. Hank Williams “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (1949)
49. Louis Armstrong “West End Blues” (1928)
50. Count Basie Orchestra “One O’Clock Jump” (1937)

51. Wayne King with Ernie Birchill “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (1931)
52. Louis Armstrong “Hello, Dolly!” (1964)
53. Dave Brubeck Quartet “Take Five” (1959)
54. The Carter Family “Wildwood Flower” (1928)
55. Tammy Wynette “Stand by Your Man” (1968)
56. Hal McIntyre with Ruth Gaylor “My Funny Valentine” (1937)
57. Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” (1978)
58. Thelonious Monk “Round Midnight” (1947)
59. Muddy Waters “Hoochie Coochie Man” (1954)
60. Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys “Blue Moon of Kentucky” (1947)

61. Nat “King” Cole “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” (1946)
62. Santana “Oye Como Va” (1970)
63. Loretta Lynn “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970)
64. Robert Johnson “Hellhound on My Trail” (1937)
65. Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” (1950)
66. Jelly Roll Morton “King Porter Stomp” (1923)
67. Charlie Parker with Miles Davis & Dizzy Gillespie “Ko-Ko” (1945)
68. Thomas A. Dorsey “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” (1932)
69. Dizzy Gillespie “A Night in Tunisia” (1946)
70. Gene Autry “Back in the Saddle Again” (1939)

71. Pete Seeger “We Shall Overcome” (1963)
72. Aaron Copland “Appalachian Spring” (1944)
73. Count Basie “Lester Leaps In” (1939)
74. Paul Whiteman with Jack Fulton “Grand Canyon Suite” (1932)
75. The Modern Jazz Quartet “Django” (1954)
76. Billie Holiday “Fine and Mellow” (1957)
77. Mahalia Jackson “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” (1951)
78. Samuel Barber “Adagio for Strings” (1938)
79. Igor Stravinsky “Symphony of Psalms” (1948)
80. John Cage “4:33 (Cage Against the Machine Version)” (2010)

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 3/31/2021.