Dubbed the ‘King of Ragtime’, Scott Joplin (c.1867-1917) was one of the most important and influential composers at the turn of the 20th century.
The champion of ragtime was born in Texas in 1867, or 68 (the exact date and place of his birth are unknown), and grew up there. He studied the piano and later pursued music and piano studies at the George R. Smith College.
He relocated to St Louis in 1900 and worked closely with the publisher John Stark, who championed his earlier ragtime works.
Joplin moved to New York in 1907 and penned his compositional instruction book, ‘The School of Ragtime’. His ideas around harmony, as well as his complex bass patterns and sporadic syncopation, are still imitated by composers today.
His best-known works include ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ and ‘The Entertainer’, the latter of which was very much Joplin’s “theme tune”.
The Academy Award-winning 1973 film ‘The Sting’ used several of Joplin’s compositions, including ‘The Entertainer’ and ‘Solace’.
Joplin died around the age of 50 due to syphilis which descended into dementia, and his death marked the end of ragtime and a sad lapse in interest around his music.
Did you know?
Joplin’s compositions were rediscovered and rose to popularity again in the early 1970s, when US conductor and keyboardist Joshua Rifkin released a successful album of his pieces.