Reginald Foresythe

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The name Reginald Foresythe sounds and is British, but this artist found more success in America. He wrote film scores in the early years of the industry for directors such as the great D.W. Griffith…
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The name Reginald Foresythe sounds and is British, but this artist found more success in America. He wrote film scores in the early years of the industry for directors such as the great D.W. Griffith as well as coming up with interesting, innovative tunes that were recorded by jazz greats including Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Earl Hines. The latter pianist adopted the Foresythe song entitled "Deep Forest" as one of his signature pieces; it was the composer's first piece to be published and included his trademark use of evocative, unusual titles. In his native land, Foresythe floundered in the British dance band scene, where his efforts were often described as avant-garde, probably not what was desired by that posh audience. In his later years he was not able to secure gigs above the level of a lounge pianist.

The son of a West African lawyer, Foresythe studied both piano and composition as a young man. He came into his own in the years between the First and Second World Wars, establishing relationships in the United States with others who were deep in the publishing and songwriting business. Foresythe was one of three writers involved in preparing "Be Ready" for performing and recording; the others were Andy Razaf and Ted Weems. Razaf also composed "Please Don't Talk About My Man" with Foresythe, and while the tune was covered by various female singers it actually was presenting a gay male outlook. In the first half of the '30s he seemed to score greatest with yet another male-oriented collaboration with Razaf plus Paul Denniker, "He's a Son of the South."

Foresythe's more ambitious works include "Southern Holiday," a suite he described as a "Phantasy of Negro Moods." The piece was performed but never recorded by the Paul Whiteman orchestra. Similar negative fates shrouded other Foresythe projects, a series of solo piano recordings of his compositions also winding up on the shelf, and not one in the den of a record collector's pad. He served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and worked largely as an accompanist to singers afterwards. By the mid-'50s he was mostly employed as a pianist in dinky London dives.