Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” is a very recognizable piece of music. This music just makes a person want to tap their foot. This piece of music is much more than notes on a piece of paper, it has such a historical significance. Joplin is considered to be the “King of Ragtime,” even though he did not create ragtime music. It was Joplin’s compositions that helped ragtime become popular during his time. Joplin is also considered America’s first African-American composer.
History is not completely positive of when Scott Joplin was born. He is said to have been born to ex-slaves between 1867 and 1868 in Texas. When Joplin was a young child his family moved to Texarkana, which is the border between Texas and Arkansas. While living in a white-owned home in Texarkana, Joplin taught himself the basics of piano. Later, Julius Weiss, a German-born music teacher helped guide Joplin by teaching him the fundamentals of music. In the 1880’s Joplin lived in Sedalia attending Lincoln High School, which was an African-American high school. Around 1896, Joplin took music classes at George R. Smith College, an African-American institute.
“Original Rags” was the first piece that was ever published by Joplin and then his second was “The Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899, which is one of his most famous pieces of work. Original Rags was not the greatest experience for Joplin because he was forced to share credit with Charles Daniels. Daniels’ was credited as an arranger but in some local newspapers he was credited as the composer. After this experience, Joplin received assistance from a young lawyer in Sedalia that helped Joplin create a contract for his next ragtime, The Maple Leaf Rag. The contract guaranteed that Joplin would receive one-cent royalty on each sale of a sheet of music. This generated a small yet steady income for Joplin for the remainder of his life.
After he married his wife Belle in 1901, Joplin published his most famous composition “The Entertainer.” Joplin’s well known musical composition; “The Entertainer” is an example of classical ragtime music. “The Entertainer” has a very strong rhythm; the beat within the accompaniment keeps the listener tuned into the music, and is one of the most significant elements. The tone of the composition is firm and doesn’t change from the original key. Joplin does use accidentals and syncopations in the composition to make the piece more capturing. The tempo is written in a 2/4 time, which makes the piece up tempo, but not too fast. The melody is homophonic, which means that the elements are of the same rhythm even though they play different notes throughout the piece of music. The use of crescendo and decrescendo give “The Entertainer” substance and body and helps with the attention-grabbing aspect.
After His Marriage :
To Belle ended he traveled back to Arkansas and married Freddie Alexander in Little Rock. Sadly, ten weeks after their marriage Freddie contracted a cold that turned into pneumonia and she passed at the young age of twenty. By 1916 Joplin was experiencing severe physical and mental symptoms from the syphilis he contracted decades earlier. By January 1917 he had to b hospitalized and later was transferred to a mental hospital where he died on April 1, 1917.
When Joplin composed “The Entertainer” it was not one of his most famous pieces of music at the time. In 1973, the movie “The Sting” helped “The Entertainer” become what it is today. “The Stings” soundtrack won an Academy Award and in 1974 the song reached number three on Billboards Top 100. Many people may recognize the song during the summertime when the ice cream truck comes strolling through your neighborhood.
King of Ragtime:
Scott Joplin’s name was not as well known while he was living, but today we see how Joplin helped pave the way for music today. He was the “King of Ragtime” and helped shape jazz for his future generation. He was commemorated by the United States Post Office on June 9, 1983 with his own Black Heritage stamp. Still to this day, Joplin’s music is still being published, recorded, and purchased by music lovers all over the world. Through Joplin’s music, he helped pave the way for African-American artists and will always be remembered for his accomplishments through music.