Sunday Music – The Entertainer

Posted on Sun 03/22/2009 by


Today’s music video is ‘The Entertainer’ from Scott Joplin.

As you watch this video, be aware that there is a great story behind this particular clip.

The song is remembered in different ways. Children think fondly of the song as ‘Ice Cream Truck, because some Companies that sell ice creams from trucks play the theme as the truck moves along. Others remember the song from the 1973 movie ‘The Sting’ with Bob Redford and Paul Newman. For the movie, Marvin Hamlisch adapted this song for use in the soundtrack. Hamlisch won an Academy Award for the song (Best Original/Adaptation Song) and also a Grammy Award for the song as well. His version is the most remembered as he made it into a huge hit, reviving the music of the man who actually first wrote the song, Scott Joplin.

However, the song was originally composed by Scott Joplin, in, and wait for it, 1902, so the song is 107 years old.

Scott Joplin was born in 1868 the first generation after slavery was abolished. His father was a slave and his mother free born. He studied music as a boy, and was noticed as a talent when he was 11 years old.

As a teenager, he gave up his day job to pursue a career as an itinerant musician, a difficult thing in those days for a black man, and the only jobs he could get were in the ‘red light districts’. in 1893 he played in the cafes at the Chicago World’s Fair, and from there in and around Chicago, where his ragtime style became popular.

In 1899, he sold his most famous work ‘Maple Leaf Rag’, and this launched his career into the Stratosphere, entrenching him later as the ‘King of Ragtime’ and also the ‘Father of Ragtime’. In his life he would only write 44 original ragtime pieces, but he also wrote a ragtime ballet, and two operas.  Joplin died in 1917 aged only 48.

His music slid somewhat into obscurity until its revival, but his big song ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ was always huge. This song owns a unique place in American Music history. Today, artists bring out CD’s. Earlier they produced Long play records or 45’s and before that 78’s. Joplin’s ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ was the very first song ever to sell one million copies, and as there were no records in those days, this means that one million copies of his song were sold in sheet music form, an incredible achievement considering we’re talking about 1899 and into the early 1900’s.

However, and here’s where this particular clip comes in, some of his songs were released on piano rolls. These were large perforated paper cylinders that you placed inside a pianola, and then pumped away at the pedals. The roll rotated and the perforations in the paper rolled across a take off point and the strings inside the pianola were plucked, and the song played itself.

This version of the song ‘The Entertainer’ is from one of those piano rolls from the early 1900’s just after it was composed, and is the original from Scott Joplin’s sheet music, (Marvin Hamlisch’s later version a slightly different adaptation) although reason indicates that this piano roll might be of a little later origin than those original rolls, now priceless. The main difference between this, the original and the Marvin Hamlisch version is close to the end where there is that added extra part that Hamlisch left out. Also note how this original is played somewhat slower than the Hamlisch version. Note also on the image of the original sheet music, (the CD’s of the 1900’s) the description is of a Rag Time Two Step.

Joplin was around way before the Grammys were even thought of, but Joplin has won some awards, albeit posthumously, and he was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to American Music.

This video posted to You Tube by RagtimeDorianHenry.

Posted in: Videos