Scott Joplin, 1867 – 1917

November 24, 1867 – Birthdate of Scott Joplin, American pianist and composer.

Joplin was an African-American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the “King of Ragtime Writers”.  During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the “Maple Leaf Rag”, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

Joplin was born into a musical family of railway laborers in Northeast Texas, and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. Joplin grew up in Texarkana, where he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.

Joplin and his fellow ragtime composers rejuvenated American popular music, fostering an appreciation for African American music among European Americans by creating exhilarating and liberating dance tunes, changing American musical taste. “Its syncopation and rhythmic drive gave it a vitality and freshness attractive to young urban audiences indifferent to Victorian proprieties … Joplin’s ragtime expressed the intensity and energy of a modern urban America.”

Joplin’s death in 1917 is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format, and in the next several years it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz, and eventually big band swing. His music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award–winning 1973 movie The Sting that featured several of his compositions including “The Entertainer”. The opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize. (from Wikipedia)

On June 9, 1983, the United States Postal Service issued a 20-cent stamp commemorating Joplin – Scott No. 2044.  First Day of Issue ceremonies were held in Sedalia, Missouri, where Joplin had lived early in his career and where he published his first compositions.  Shown here today is a plate block of this issue on a First Day Cover.

scott-joplin-fdc-06-09-1983

And, for your listening enjoyment, here is a link to to YouTube recording of the original 1916 piano roll of “The Maple Leaf Rag”.

I wish you and your families a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving!

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