Ragtime Musician Scott Joplin—A Rough Road To Travel In Many Respects
Below is the profile of Ragtime musician Scott Joplin (above) from the book Who’s Who In The 20th Century. This book was published by Oxford University Press. Mr. Joplin lived 1868-1917.
“Born in Texarkana, Texas, Jopin won several local piano contests before turning his attention exclusively to the syncopated piano style known as ragtime. A strong influence on the stride piano style of Fats Waller,ragtime became a precursor of Jazz. The first two pieces called rags were written in 1897-98: two of Joplin’sbest known, “Original Rags” and “Maple Leaf Rag” were written in 1899. The latter was so successful that a publishing company was formed on the strength of it, and a million copies of the sheet music were soon sold, Ragtime became nationally popular and for a time Joplin achieved his ambition of wealth and fame…However, he he aspired to create a more serious school of ragtime composition although the style does not sustain extended forms. He also wrote two operas…and started an opera company based on ragtime. None of these ventures succeed…These failures , the ravages of syphilis and the declining interest in ragtime combined to lead to his early death in a mental house. He wrote about fifty piano rags, of which many are subtle and stylish compositions as well as delightful period pieces.”
For Mr. Joplin, beyond the barriers his skin color presented, he was also hindered by the artistic limits of his music. You don’t have to know much about either ragtime or opera, to wonder about an opera made from rag music.
My guess is that Mr. Joplin did the best he could against the obstacles he faced.