Scott Joplin: Composer, Pianist And “King of Ragtime”

1 Posted by - July 19, 2018 - Black First, BLACK MEN, CELEBRITIES, ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC

was a well-known African-American composer and pianist. He achieved recognition and fame for his ragtime compositions and was named the “King of Ragtime Writers”. Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas during his time. One of his well-known pieces is the “, it was recognized as the classic rag.

Joplin’s family had local teachers and family members who help him with his music. He grew up in Texarkana, and eventually formed his own vocal quartet. Toward the end of the 1880’s he decided to leave his job as a laborer on the railroad and travel. He traveled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He played at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893; this played a big part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897. He then moved to Sedalia, Missouri where he lived as a piano teacher, and made a modest living.

His road eventually lead him to publishing music. In 1899 he published the piece that made him famous and brought his fortune “Maple Leaf Rag”.  In 1899, Joplin also married Belle, the sister-in-law of collaborator Scott Hayden. The publication “Maple Leaf Rag” brought Joplin income for life. The Joplins moved to St. Louis in early 1900s, and had a baby daughter who died only a few months after birth. The relationship between Joplin and his wife was difficult, as she had no interest in music. So, they eventually separated and then divorced. Joplin continued to compose and publish some of the best ragtime publications.

Joplin, moved to New York City in 1907. He wanted to find a producer for a new Opera. He met his second wife Lottie Stokes. Unable to find someone to publish his new opera Treemonisha, he attempted to do it himself.  It was a total flop; the audience just was not ready for musical forms, it was too different from the normal European grand operas of that time. Most people just got up and walked out on the show. Joplin is said to have suffered a major breakdown during this time. Joplin became ill in 1916 with dementia as a result of syphilis. He was admitted into a mental institution and died three months later at the age of 49. Joplin’s death was the end of the ragtime era, however other music began to evolve such as jazz, and eventually the big band swing.

This is the best clip in the movie Scott Joplin (1977) by Universal Studios. It depicts a competition between “professors” (brothel pianists) to win $100 from John Stark in Sedalia, Missouri. Louis Chauvin, who is a better pianist but can’t read/write music, teams up with Joplin and unleashes Maple Leaf Rag upon the public for the first time (this did not actually occur.) Dick Hyman is playing the soundtrack and Billy Dee Williams is portraying Scott Joplin.



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