King of Ragtime Writers

Browse Song Catalog: BMI

Scott Joplin


Wrote "Maple Leaf Rag" and 43 others

Scott Joplin, American composer and pianist, was one of the most important developers of ragtime music.

Born in Texarkana, Texas on November 24, 1868, Joplin taught himself piano as a child, learning classical music from a German neighbor, Louis Chauvin. In his teens he became an itinerant pianist in the low-life districts that provided the chief employment for black musicians.

He settled in St. Louis in 1885. In 1893 he played at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and in 1894 he moved to Sedalia, Missouri. While in Missouri, he published “Original Rags” and “Maple Leaf Rag” (both in 1899) and opened a teaching studio. He moved to New York City in 1907. In 1911, at his own expense, he published his opera Treemonisha, a work intended to go beyond ragtime to create an indigenous black American opera. Staged in concert version in 1911, it failed with the audience, leaving the composer's spirit permanently broken.

Joplin's music underwent a great revival after his rag “The Entertainer” was used in the 1973 film The Sting, after which Treemonisha was staged with great success in 1975 by the Houston Grand Opera. Other Joplin compositions include “Peacherine Rag” (1901), “Palm Leaf Rag-A Slow Drag” (1903), and “Euphonic Sounds” (1909) and a work that contains his explanation of ragtime style, “The School of Ragtime: Six Exercises for Piano”(1909).

Scott Joplin, the father of ragtime and one of the most influential composers of American popular song, died in New York City on April 4, 1919.

"The Entertainer" was theme for 1973's "The Sting"