"Old Folks at Home"
Stephen C. Foster wrote "The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)" in 1851. After Foster wrote the song, he sold it to E. P. Christy, a businessman who operated a series of minstrel shows.
Foster is reported to have chosen the term "Swanee" because its two-syllable cadence fit nicely into the music he had composed. The composer was not familiar with the Florida section of the Suwannee River, because he never visited the state. A memorial center at White Springs, Florida, honors Foster, who authored about 200 popular songs during his prolific career.
Representative S. P. Robineau of Miami introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 22 in 1935, designating "Swanee River" as the official state song. It replaced "Florida, My Florida," which had been adopted as the state song in 1913. In 2008, the Legislature designated that a revised version of the lyrics be the official version.
The Suwannee River flows in a southerly direction from the Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. The river separates the Florida panhandle from the rest of the state.
"Old Folks at Home"
Way down upon the Suwannee River,
Far, far away,
There’s where my heart is turning ever,
There’s where the old folks stay.
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for my childhood station,
And for the old folks at home.
All the world is sad and dreary
Everywhere I roam.
O dear ones, how my heart grows weary,
Far from the old folks at home.
All ‘round the little farm I wander’d,
When I was young;
Then many happy days I squander’d,
Many the songs I sung.
When I was playing with my brother,
Happy was I.
Oh, take me to my kind old mother,
There let me live and die.
One little hut among the bushes,
One that I love.
Still sadly to my memory rushes,
No matter where I rove.
When will I see the bees a humming,
All ‘round the comb?
When shall I hear the banjo strumming,
Down in my good old home.
Revised lyrics, adopted by the Center for American Music, Stephen Foster Memorial, at the University of Pittsburgh.