Ragtime

Scott Joplin

Following the era of Negro Spirituals and folk music, a new era emerged. The genre of Ragtime was a uniquely American genre created and mainly performed by African Americans in the time period of 1896- 1920. Ragtime was primarily played on pianos but a vocal sub-genre did exist. It was easily accessible to “regular” people because the music was sold in sheets. People could easily purchase the sheet music and play it in on their personal pianos at home. What made ragtime different, was the idea of syncopation. A syncopated rhythm meant that the emphasis was placed on the off beat rather than the first or 3rd beat in the measure. In general, the left hand played the easier part, while the right hand was responsible for the syncopated rhythm. Typically ragtime songs were fast and bouncy due to the syncopated rhythm. 

The popularity and demand for ragtime also heavily boosted sales of pianos and the ranks of the recording industry in mainly southern states. However, ragtime seemed to mainly exist in southern and mid-western states, but primarily in Missouri. 

Although ragtime was popular among African Americans, the general marketing scheme was not always that positive for the community. White people began to write songs and dances inspired by ragtime called “coon songs” and “cake walks” that had denigrating lyrics about black people. These lyrics were typically sung in a Negro Dialect and performed by whites in blackface. In this time, white people exploited African American music and culture and profited off of the music and actions that they were doing. 

Ragtime eventually reached its decline around the 1920s when jazz started to emerge as the primary genre in the United States. Although it declined, ragtime music was never forgotten and still lives on today. 

Some ragtime artists emerged that were the main composers and performers of ragtime music. One of these artists was Scott Joplin. As shown in the various videos below and in the picture above, Scott Joplin emerged as the face of ragtime music. He is commonly known for two of his ragtime songs titled, “The Entertainer”, and “Maple Leaf Rag”. He mainly composed his music in 1897 and they were published on sheet music that was heavily distributed in the United States. 

Another popular ragtime artist was James Hubert Blake, also known as Eubie Blake. Some of his songs include the “Charleston Rag”, “I’m Just Wild about Harry”, “Love Will Find a Way”, and “Memories of You”. Some of this performances are displaye din the videos down below. 

Other artists of the ragtime era included James Scott, Jelly Roll Morton, Luckey Roberts, Blind Blake, and James Reese Europe. 

Commonly Known Ragtime Artists:

  • Scott Joplin
    • Songs:
      • Maple Leaf Rag
      • The Entertainer
      • The Ragtime Dance
      • Wall street Rag
  • James Hubert Blake (Eubie Blake)
    • Songs:
      • Charleston Rag
      • I’m Just Wild about Harry
      • Love Will Find a Way
      • Memories of You
  • James Scott
  • Jelly Roll Morton
  • Luckey Roberts
  • Blind Blake
  • James Reese Europe