TRACK #6: Discussion | Lyrics | About the Composer • • • JUMP TO CD #1 »
FROM CD #2:
Words and music by H.S. Thom(p)son
Thompson excelled in the exorbitantly maudlin songs that were a standard feature of black-face minstrelsy — his other big hit has the same dying, angelic young girl and fixation on last wishes. Notwithstanding the power of lines such as "Sweet came the hallow'd chiming of the Sabbath bell.... On a bed of pain and anguish lay dear Annie Lisle.... Dearest Mother, I am going; Truly 'God is Love'," it is remembered today only as the melody to which "High Above Cayuga's Waters," the favorite college song of Cornell alumni/æ, was written.
Thanks to Mr. Richey, we can now state that the composer's first name was Henry and that he was born in 1824 or 1825 in Massachusetts, probably northern Essex County. He was still living in his father's house in 1840 (in Topsfield, Massachusetts) and in 1850 (in Georgetown, about 8 miles away). By 1851 he had moved to Newburyport, where he was active as a teacher, performer, and impresario for the remainder of the decade. By 1860 Thompson had moved to East Boston; the census of that year gives his occupation as "music teacher." Starting in 1858 his name appears in connection with various minstrel companies, including (in Boston) Morris Brothers, Pell, Huntley's, and Trowbridge's Minstrels, as well as Morris and Wilson's Opera Troupe (i.e., black-face minstrels) in St. Louis (1865-66).
Thompson disappears from the census records after 1860 — although that of 1870 records a Henry Thompson in Marquette, Michigan. This may not be the same man, as he gave a different year of birth and stated that he was born in Russia of foreign-born parents. Nonetheless, Thompson's publications reach into the 1880s, and a connection to the upper midwest does exist — his eldest son, Henry F. Thompson, appears in the 1870 and 1880 census as a lawyer living in Minnesota. Mr. Richey has cataloged 48 popular songs by Henry Thompson to date, the earliest published in 1849 and the last in 1885; by decade these number: