Nelson was born in London in 1800, son of Solomon Nelson. Showing musical ability when quite young, he was adopted by a gentleman who gave him a good musical and general education. He was for some time a pupil of Sir George Smart, and eventually became a teacher in London. He was in partnership with Charles Jefferys as a music-seller until 1843, when he was elected an associate of the Philharmonic Society. Subsequently he became a music publisher, but, being unsuccessful, he arranged a musical and dramatic entertainment with members of his family, and went on tour in North America, Canada, and Australia.
Nelson was a prolific composer, and claimed to have written about eight hundred pieces, some of which were published under an assumed name. He composed a burletta, The Grenadier, produced by Madame Vestris at the Olympic Theatre; The Cadi's Daughter, performed after Macbeth for William Macready's farewell benefit; and The Village Nightingale, words by Henry Thornton Craven, his son-in-law. He had a grand opera, Ulrica, in rehearsal at the Princess's Theatre, London under John Medex Maddox's management, but, owing to some dispute, it was not produced.
He was the author of Instructions in the Art of Singing and composed many duets, trios, piano pieces, and songs; some of the latter, such as "The Pilot" and "Rose of Allendale", attained considerable popularity. "Mary of Argyle" also became popular.
- "Sidney Nelson (1800–1862)" Naxos. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- "Sidney Nelson" Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- "Sidney Nelson" Discogs. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- "Sidney Nelson and family" Australharmony. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- Hadden, James Cuthbert (1894). . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 40. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 212–213.
- "Nelson, Sydney". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19884. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- "Mary of Argyle" National Jukebox at Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hadden, James Cuthbert (1894). "Nelson, Sydney". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 40. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 212–213.