William Shakespeare Hays (July 19, 1837 – July 23, 1907), was an American poet and lyricist. He wrote some 350 songs over his career and sold as many as 20 million copies of his works. These pieces varied in tone from low comedy to sentimental and pious; his material was sometimes confused with that of Stephen Foster as a result. In his later years, Hays put forth one of the more plausible claims to authorship of the song "Dixie". In the end, however, no evidence could be produced to back up his pretensions.
Hays was born as William Hays in Louisville, Kentucky, back then a small but rapidly-growing city where he would spend most of his life. He published his first poetry in 1856 and 1857 through the paper of his Georgetown, Kentucky, school. Hays eventually received the nickname "Shakespeare" for his writings, an appellation he made a formal part of his name.
Hays finished school and returned to Louisville in 1857. He found employment at D. P. Fauld's music store, where he continued to write music and poetry. He published many of his pieces under pen names, including Syah ("Hays" spelled backward). Three small collections of his poetry were also produced.