The Best Time is Ragtime!

Ragtime is a musical genre that existed long before the style was officially given a name.  Ragtime music was in its prime from 1896 to 1920. Ragtime music has been described as a mixture between the early styles of jazz music and classical music though it has been hard to create a meaning of it due to its ambiguity.


Though ragtime has African American musical roots, it has a racist undertone. As part of marketing Ragtime to the general population to make it more appealing the cake walk and coon songs came into. Coon songs are performed by white people, who were most likely in blackface, and black people in minstrel shows portrayed blacks in degrading and stereotypical light. However on the other side,  there is the Cakewalk. And these are dances, generally done by slaves, that done that portrayed the upper class white masters in a dignified light. It was ultimately made into a competition where the winning couple would win cake. This is where the phrase “take the cake” came from.


Though ragtime is black, whites often transcribed the music that was played.  Ragtime had originally started as oral tradition. Some of the most famous ragtime artists are Scott Joplin and W.T. Jefferson. However, the artists generally did not receive as much money as their publishers. For example, Scott Joplin received a penny per copy  of “Maple Leaf Rag” and it is the best rag song of all time.


Since its prime, ragtime has declined in popularity. Though it is black in origin, it became primarily white once it became popular music. When ragtime music is thought of now, it is grouped in to classical music. I believe that the racist undertones of it keep it hidden from society today.

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