Ray Campbell's Reviews > King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era

King of Ragtime by Edward A. Berlin
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May 10, 2012

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Read from May 10 to 25, 2012

I was lucky to have had two professors at Western Connecticut State who lived and taught the history of Jazz. Since Ragtime falls in the transitional period near the turn of the century, both sections of these courses covered Scott Joplin. I love his music and have even played guitar arrangements. This was a fairly pedestrian account of his life. Sadly, as an African-American living in relative poverty in a period that was not friendly to his race, much of the historical record of his life is sketchy. For that reason the book takes on the flavor of social history since many of the realities of Joplin's life were common to African-Americans of the period. I always find that my favorite histories give a strong atmospheric impression - this book does that. Berlin also does a good deal of musical analysis giving excerpts of manuscripts when describing controversies of originality as well as the development of Joplin's art.

I may have approached this book with a favorable prejudice, but it was never the less a really enjoyable read. I would recommend it highly for anyone with an interest in Ragtime or the history of Jazz. Joplin is the towering figure and a brilliant composer. His life holds no shocking surprises, but the book is well written and enjoyable.
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Reading Progress

05/10/2012 page 124
35.0%
05/17/2012 page 170
48.0% "Good book - highly detailed biography and musical analysis. I'm enjoying it."
05/27/2016 marked as: read
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