Oh, Susannah, don't you cry

Oh, Susannah, don't you cry

[Alternately: “Oh! Susanna,” “Oh! Susannah!” “Susanna,” “Susannah, don’t you cry”]

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Composed as early as 1847, the song was first published as “Susanna” by Holt at New York City. That edition advertised the song as being performed by G.N. Christy of the Christy Minstrels. The first edition that credited Foster as the composer (also under the title “Susanna”) was published by W. C. Peters at Louisville, KY in 1848 (Spitzer 90-91). A comparatively late entry into the canon of minstrel song, it proved to be immensely popular in the given period: between 1848-1850 the song was printed and reprinted, arranged and rearranged by at least sixteen different publishers, each edition being markedly different (Spitzer 91). The edition surveyed for this entry appears to generally conform to Foster’s original lyrics. His version also included a version of the notorious second verse re-printed here.

The popularity of the song was certainly not confined to the period in question. Shortly after its inclusion in minstrel shows, the song became popular with participants in the California Gold Rush. Today, the song is arguably a part of America’s folk canon and has enjoyed a rather long recording history.

Select Recording History:

  • The Byrds. Turn! Turn! Turn! Columbia/Legacy, 1965.
  • Camptown Shakers. “Ring De Banjo/Oh Susanna.” Tooth and Nail. Camptown Shakers, 2002.
  • Carter Cash, June. Keep on the Sunny Side. Sony, 2005.
  • Taj Mahal. Live in Concert at RAH. Flip Disk, 2001.
  • Taylor, James. Sweet Baby James. Warner Brothers, 1970.

    Works Cited:
  • Spitzer, John. ““Oh! Susanna”: Oral Transmission and Tune Transformation.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 47.1 (Spring, 1994): 90-136

    Mark Turner

  • Media: 
    Sheet Music Cover
    Sheet Music Cover #2
    Sheet Music Cover #3
    Audio File - Minstrels in the Parlour

    Performance(s) listed of this act

    Performer(s) Troupe Event and Venue

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Variety, 12 Jun. 1848 - 17 Jun. 1848
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 22 Jul. 1848 - 22 Jul. 1848
    Newburgh Rooms, Cannon Place, Sussex

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 31 Oct. 1848 - 03 Nov. 1848
    Music Hall, Sheffield, Yorkshire: West Riding

    Irwin, J.H.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 04 Jun. 1849 - 08 Jun. 1849
    Sadler's Wells, London (city-county)

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1849-50) Dramatic, 06 Sep. 1849 - 08 Sep. 1849
    Corn Exchange, Stirling, Stirling