Saturday, December 29, 2012

the entertainer

Scott Joplin had his most enduring success with this classic ragtime two step.  Joplin had taught himself to play piano as a young child at a house where his mother worked.  A German music teacher Julius Weiss recognized his talent and taught him classical music.  By his early twenties, he was playing in various travelling musical groups.  He also took music classes at George R. Smith College in Sedalia, Missouri.  After some problems with getting his work published, he contacted a lawyer Robert Higdon who helped him write a contract with Sedalia music store owner and publisher John Stark.  The deal included a one cent royalty on every copy sold.  His first Stark publication was his 'Maple Leaf Rag' in 1899. 

After some success, Joplin moved to St. Louis in 1901.  He met Tom Turpin who owned a saloon and had published his own rags; but Joplin preferred teaching and composition to performing.  On December 29, 1902, he published his most famous piece, 'The Entertainer', which he dedicated to James Brown and his Mandolin Club.  The song was an immediate hit and secured his place as one of the great ragtime composers.  Joplin said that he called the music ragtime "because it has such a ragged movement. It suggests something like that".

Joplin would claim: "When I'm dead twenty-five years, people are going to begin to recognize me."  It was actually fifty-seven years later that his music had a popular resurgence when it was included as part of the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film 'The Sting'.  The score included six rags by Joplin that were adapted by Marvin Hamlisch.  The soundtrack went to number three on the pop album chart and number one on the easy listening chart in 1974.   'The Entertainer' has been ranked at number ten on the Songs of the Century list by the Recording Industry Association of America. 

Joplin considered that “syncopations are no indication of light or trashy music, and to shy bricks at 'hateful ragtime' no longer passes for musical culture.”

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