Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
Scott Joplin was an American ragtime pianist and composer. He wrote over 100 piano rags, a ragtime ballet, and two operas. Joplin is famous for rags such as the Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer, The Ragtime Dance, Elite Syncopations, and The Easy Winners. When he was 16, Scott Joplin performed in a vocal quartet with other boys in and near Texarkana, played piano, and gave guitar and mandolin lessons. In the late 1880s, Joplin left Texarkana (and a job he had as a railroad labourer) to become a travelling musician. He performed in various red-light districts in the mid-South. He briefly had his own band in which he played the cornet and arranged the music. Throughout his life, Joplin taught and played the piano. Near the end of his life, Scott Joplin tried to compose a ragtime opera but it wasn’t a success. He composed a second ragtime opera, Treemonisha, but that wasn’t a success either. He couldn’t find a publisher, and financed a publication of his opera in a piano/voice form. He invited an audience to a rehearsal in 1915. The opera wasn’t staged properly and only had Scott Joplin accompanying the singers. Joplin had a nervous breakdown. He didn’t have any money. In 1916, Scott Joplin was suffering from neurosyphilis. In January of 1917 he was admitted to Manhattan State Hospital (which was a mental institution). On April 1st, 1917 (the day the United States entered World War I), Scott Joplin died of syphilitic dementia. Because of World War I, Joplin’s death went unnoticed in the press. His opera Treemonisha was largely forgotten and didn’t get a full staged performance until the 1970s.
In 1975 (two years after the movie Sting was released), there was a Scott Joplin revival. Violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist André Previn recorded an album of Itzhak Perlman’s own violin/piano arrangements of some of Scott Joplin’s most famous rags called “The Easy Winners.” Here is Scott Joplin’s RagTIme Dance (arranged by Itzhak Perlman) from Perlman and Previn’s album “The Easy Winners”. Enjoy.