How Scott Joplin transformed American music

Posted on: February 10, 2022

“I must have been 7 or 8 when I first heard Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer’ in the movie The Sting,” writes pianist Lara Downes in Monday’s (2/7) National Public Radio. “Like pretty much every other piano student in America, I set about learning how to play ‘The Entertainer.’ … Scott Joplin wrote ‘The Entertainer’ in 1902…. Leaving his own indelible mark on the 20th century, Joplin was an innovator whose deceptive, irregular rhythms and nuanced harmonic language helped define the trajectory of American music during a time of rapid change and flux…. He was born in northeast Texas just four years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation…. By … his teens, in the 1880s, he was making a living as an itinerant musician…. Joplin became the ‘King of Ragtime,’ a pioneer of a genre that permanently altered American culture…. Ragtime introduced mainstream America to the simple but radical trick of syncopation in rhythm [laying] the foundation for much of 20th century American music: first blues, jazz and swing, then R&B and rock-and-roll….. He spent his life bumping up against color lines while his work crossed over them. He invented and innovated because he had to. This is a central motif in American music.”