Robert Owens

Robert Owens has composed numerous American song settings, and his songs feature the poetry of writers from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.

Photo: Robert Owens, publicity photo

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Born in Denison, Texas, Robert Owens grew up in Berkeley, California. His first piano teacher was his mother, and, by the age of 15, Owens had already composed a piano concerto and premiered the work with the Berkeley Young People’s Symphony Orchestra.

Owens served in the military and followed his service with studies and performances throughout Europe. He returned to the United States in 1957 to accept a position at Albany State College. This year also marks the beginning of his serious compositional output.

After meeting Langston Hughes during this time, Owens began to devote himself to setting Hughes’ poetry to music, with more than 45 settings of Hughes in Owens’ oeuvre today.

While in the United States, Owens stayed connected to his musical colleagues in Europe. Many of his songs, especially his Langston Hughes settings, became popular among singers overseas, especially in Germany.

–Christie Finn Source: Liner Notes to Darryl Taylor’s recording “Fields of Wonder: Songs and Spirituals of Robert Owens” (Albany Records)

Related Information


Heart on the Wall

(Robert Owens)


With a Song in My Heart

(H. Leslie Adams, Henry Burleigh, Margaret Bonds, Robert Owens and Cecil Cohen)


Fields of Wonder: Songs of Robert Owens

(Robert Owens)


Dreamer - A Portrait of Langston Hughes

(Margaret Bonds, William Grant Still, Kurt Weill, Henry Burleigh, Robert Owens, John Musto, Ricky Ian Gordon, Howard Swanson, Jean Berger, Erik Santos and Florence Price)


African-American Composers of 20th Century

(Henry Burleigh, Robert Owens, William Grant Still)


The Negro Speaks of Rivers

(H. Leslie Adams, Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, George Walker, Howard Swanson, Florence Price, Henry Clay Work and Cecil Cohen)



Sheet Music

Anthology of Art Songs by Black American Composers, Compiled by Willis C. Patterson

Composer(s): H. Leslie Adams, David Baker, Margaret Bonds, Charles Brown, Cecil Cohen, Noel de Costa, Mark Fax, Adolphus C. Hailstork, Eugene Hancock, Thomas Kerr, Jr., Charles Lloyd, Jr., Wendell Logan, Maurice McCall, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Florence Price, Hale Smith, William Grant Still, Howard Swanson, George Walker, Olly Wilson, John Work, Jr.

Song(s): For You There is No Song (Leslie Adams)
Early in the Mornin' (David Baker)
A Good Assassination Should Be Quiet (David Baker)
Status Symbol (David Baker)
Three Dream Portraits: Minstrel Man; Dream Variations; I, Too (Margaret Bonds)
The Barrier (Charles Brown)
Song Without Words (Charles Brown)
Death of an Old Seaman (Cecil Cohen)
Two Songs for Julie Ju (Noel da Costa)
Cassandra's Lullaby (Mark Fax)
Love (Mark Fax)
A Charm at Parting (Adolphus C. Hailstork)
I Loved You (Adolphus C. Hailstork)
Absalom (Eugene Hancock)
Nunc Dimittis (Eugene Hancock)
Riding to Town (Thomas Kerr, Jr.)
Compensation (Charles Lloyd, Jr.)
If There Be Sorrow (Wendell Logan)
Marrow of My Bone (Wendell Logan)
Chanson Triste (Maurice McCall)
Sweet Sorrow (Maurice McCall)
Weary Blues (Dorothy Rudd Moore)
Love Let the Wind Cry...How I Adore Thee (Undine Moore)
Faithful One (Robert Owens)
Genius Child (Robert Owens)
A Child's Grace (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
Melancholy (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
Night (Florence Price)
Song to the Dark Virgin (Florence Price)
Velvet Shoes (Hale Smith)
Grief (William Grant Still)
A Death Song (Howard Swanson)
I Will Lie Down in Autumn (Howard Swanson)
The Negro Speaks of Rivers (Howard Swanson)
Lament (George Walker)
A Red, Red Rose (George Walker)
Wry Fragments (Olly Wilson)
Dancing in the Sun (John Work, Jr.)
Soliloquy (John Work, Jr.)

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Genius Child

Composer(s): Robert Owens

Voice Type: Baritone

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Three Countee Cullen Songs, Op. 27

Composer(s): Robert Owens

Voice Type: High

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