Oh Susanna Song Lyrics: The Catchy Tune and Its History

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Full Lyrics of Oh Susanna

I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee
I’m going to Louisiana,
My true love for to see

It rained all night
The day I left
The weather it was dry
The sun so hot,
I froze to death
Susanna, don’t you cry

Oh, Susanna,
Oh don’t you cry for me
For I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee

I had a dream the other night
When everything was still
I thought I saw Susanna
A-coming down the hill

The buckwheat cake
Was in her mouth
The tear was
In her eye
Says I, I’m coming from the south
Susanna, don’t you cry

Oh, Susanna,
Oh don’t you cry for me
For I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee

Oh Susanna

Oh Susanna is a classic American folk song that is instantly recognizable by its catchy melody. With its twangy banjo and lighthearted lyrics, it’s no wonder this tune has remained popular for over 150 years. Though a seemingly silly song about a man searching for his love Susanna, Oh Susanna has an unexpectedly rich history behind its origins and continued legacy.

Origins and Meaning

Oh Susanna was written in 1848 by Stephen Foster, who is often called the “father of American music.” Born in Pennsylvania in 1826, Foster starting writing songs as a child and authored over 200 tunes before his early death at age 37. Though he never traveled west of Pittsburgh in his lifetime, many of Foster’s songs romanticized life in the South or on the frontier.

Oh Susanna was composed during the California Gold Rush of 1848-1855. Though Foster likely never ventured out West either, his song captured the imagination of Easterners dreaming of striking it rich in the gold mines. References to Alabama, Louisiana, and New Orleans reflect the routes that prospectors took over land and sea to reach California and its treasures.

While the lyrics tell a story of separated lovers – the narrator traveling west with his banjo to find his dear Susanna – the song was also a reflection of Americans’ thirst for adventure and prosperity in the newly settled West. The catchy, bouncy melody only added to the song’s appeal. Oh Susanna quickly became popular among prospectors and pioneers heading West, who liked to sing the tune around campfires on long journeys.

Fun Facts

  • Though it was originally written for a quartet, Oh Susanna gained popularity as a solo song sung to the accompaniment of a banjo – the portable instrument of choice for travelers and frontiersmen.
  • As the song spread along the pioneer trails to the West, the lyrics were often adapted with localized place names. For example, ‘Alabama’ was replaced with Kansas or Colorado.
  • Oh Susanna was performed at the scout camp of a young William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who went on to fame as a soldier, scout, and Wild West showman.


With its simple melody and humorous lyrics, Oh Susanna has embedded itself in American culture and still rings familiar to almost every schoolchild today. What originated as a silly ditty about a lovesick traveler going West went on to become an anthem of American adventure and promise. Oh Susanna capsulized the independent, fun-loving spirit of the pioneers. And thanks to Stephen Foster’s songwriting talents, this tune has stayed in our national consciousness for over a century and a half.

The popularity of traditional campfire songs and hand-me-down tunes like Oh Susanna is a testament to the unifying and nostalgic power of music. As I discussed in my previous post on popular kids’ songs, music creates culture and connection across generations. For the full list of songs, visit https://thecornydad.com/50-fun-and-educational-kiddie-songs-with-lyrics. I’d love to hear your memories of singing Oh Susanna or other kids’ songs! Please share in the comments below.

Hey there! I'm Allen, but you can call me "The Corny Dad" from Canada. I have a wife and four kiddos. Yep, one's full grown, but they'll always be my babies. When I'm not doing something with my family or playing video games, I'm here, jotting down my bits of wisdom on this blog. From the fun stuff to the parenting chaos, I cover it all. Believe me, with the right attitude, parenting's a smoother ride and I'm here to help.

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