Edward A. Berlin

Ragtime and Scholarship


This march by William J. Short, depicting President Theodore Roosevelt on its cover, suggests that Scott Joplin's rag The Strenuous Life (1902) was intended as a tribute to the President

A rare, early cover for Joplin's The Strenuous Life, with a caricature of Booker T. Washington on his way to Theodore Roosevelt's White House.

Links to Specific Writings

A systematic and analytic survey of ragtime music, of society's responses and reactions to the music, and of the literature about ragtime.
A monograph exploring potential areas for research in ragtime.
New evidence and views on the life and music of Scott Joplin, ragtime's greatest composer.
Click to learn where to purchase my Ragtime Books.

King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era (Oxford University Press, 1994)

With two ragtime books in print I had not approached Scott Joplin in a major way, though he was the first ragtime figure to capture my interest and was the impetus for much of my studies. From the beginning, I wondered about the context of Joplin’s music, how it compared with the products of other ragtime composers of his period. This was an undercurrent running through my first book, surveying all of ragtime literature. Though writers had for years cited Joplin rags as being “typical,” I concluded that the Joplin model was far from typical of the thousands of rags being produced nationwide; that he was among a select group of rag composers who stood apart from the rest because of their excellence.

The suggestion that I write about Joplin specifically came from the prolific jazz author Martin Williams when, late in life, he became an acquisitions editor with the Smithsonian Institution Press. He proposed that I prepare a small book for a series on American composers, adding that the book could merely summarize what was already in print since nothing new could be discovered about Joplin. I agreed to the suggestion, but resolved to keep my eyes open for possible discoveries.

Once I started, I realized that Joplin’s life had barely been explored; awaiting examination were reams of available newspaper items and public documents that vastly enlarge upon and correct the then-known biography. As my book developed, it outgrew the Smithsonian’s design and I sought out a publisher more willing to accept the expanded study of Scott Joplin.

CONTENTS
1. The Early Years, 1868-1893
2. Sedalia, The Cradle of Classic Ragtime
3. Scott Joplin in Sedalia, 1894-1898
4. The Maple Leaf Rag, 1899-1900
5. The Ragtime Dance, 1899-1901
6. The King of Ragtime Writers, 1901-1902
7. A Guest of Honor, 1903
8. Freddie, 1904
9. Final Days in the Midwest, 1905-1907
10. New York, 1907-1910
11. Treemonisha, 1910-1911
12. The Elusive Production, 1911-1917
13. The Legacy of Scott Joplin
Appendix A: The Music
Publication and Copyright Information
Alphabetical Listing
Chronological Listing
Appendix B: Three Songs
Good-bye Old Gal Good-bye
Snoring Sampson
Lovin’ Babe


King of Ragtime is available at all bookstores in the paperback edition. I have a few remaining hard cover copies for sale. Email me for information.

Reviews of King of Ragtime.

Brief Biographical Sketch of Scott Joplin.

Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag (1899) brought ragtime composition to a new level of sophistication.

Christmas greeting published in the magazine section of the New York Age newspaper, December 21, 1911.

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Copyright (c) 2002-2010 Edward A. Berlin