The King of Ragtime

Scott Joplin was known for being the foremost composer of ragtime in the early 20th century.


He was an African American composer and pianist born in the late 1860s in Texas. He took his art and made it into something even more popular than what it had already been. He was born into a musical family and learned how to play the guitar first then the piano and eventually mastered it. He had initially been instructed by a German music teacher, Julius Weiss who lived in his home town. Eventually, Joplin left home during his teen years and became a traveling musician. He gained his fame by playing at bars where new forms of music had been featured. These formed the basis of ragtime which had syncopated rhythms and a mixture of musical distinctions. Joplin continued to work and in 1913, he formed his own publishing company with his wife Lottie.  Despite his unfortunate death in 1917, Ragtime resurged during the 1940s and then in the 70s became a popular classical genre. 

What makes him the King of Ragtime?

Scott Joplin was the creator of “The Entertainer” also known as the “ice cream truck song”, ‘Solace” , and “The Maple Leaf Rag” which is known for being the most-selling ragtime song in history. He also wrote music for the operas Guest of Honor and Treemonisha. “The Entertainer” eventually became the theme song for The Sting which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford. His Treemonisha had been staged on Broadway in 1975. In 1976, Joplin was a recipient of a special posthumous Pulitzer Prize which honored him for shaping ragtime and its influences on the future of music. It’s safe to say we have overcome these boundaries that had been placed around us. Black art is now appreciated and loved all over the world.


The legacy that Scott Joplin left reaches far beyond his music, it served as the commencement of true Ragtime! His art was something that was of interest to me since I was a little girl. Not just because one of his well known pieces was the theme song for many ice cream trucks where I’m from, but it was the artistic attacks that he’d play in every note. By me being such a critical thinker, I was able to see exactly where he was going with his music style and I’ve got to say, he’s a genius. 

Click for some of Joplin's well known pieces...

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