Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was a prolific English composer and conductor, known for his three cantatas on the epic poem Song of Hiawatha by American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.In 1904, on his first tour to the United States, Coleridge-Taylor was received by President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House, a rare event in those days for a man of African descent. His music was widely performed and he had great support.
Coleridge-Taylor sought to draw from traditional African music and integrate it into the classical tradition, which he considered Johannes Brahms to have done with Hungarian music and Antonín Dvořák with Bohemian music.
Composers were not handsomely paid for their music at the time, and they often sold the rights to works outright in order to make immediate income. Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but Coleridge-Taylor sold the music outright for the sum of 15 guineas, and like many composers of the time, he struggled financially his entire career.
Coleridge-Taylor was 37 when he died of pneumonia. His death is often attributed to the stress of his financial situation. He was survived by his wife Jessie (1869–1962), their daughter Avril, and son, Hiawatha.