Sunday, December 29, 2002

On This Day (1902): Scott Joplin published “The Entertainer”

The Entertainer

Scott Joplin

Writer(s): Scott Joplin (lyrics: NA, instrumental)

Published: December 29, 1902

First Charted: --

Peak: -- (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 18.73 video, 17.07 streaming

Awards (Scott Joplin):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Marvin Hamlisch):

About the Song:

Scott Joplin was “the first classical trained black composer to become a household name in America.” SF His music was at the forefront of the ragtime movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century. He published his ragtime classic “The Entertainer” in 1902 and “within a year it was perhaps second in popular acclaim only to ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ among Joplin’s compositions.” SS A 1903 story in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat said it was “probably the best and most euphonious of his latter-day compositions…It is a jingling work of a very original character.” SS

The song was initially sold as sheet music and, in the 1910s, as a piano roll that worked on player pianos. WK It wasn’t recorded on wax until 1928, when Napoleon Hayes and Matthew Prater did a version with guitar and mandolin. SS In 1970, Joshua Rifkin recorded the song on Scott Joplin: Piano Rags and it became a million-selling record. In 1979, Alan Rich wrote in New York Magazine that the recording “created, almost alone, the Scott Joplin revival.” WK

Indeed, the song enjoyed its greatest success just a few years after Rifkin’s recording when it was featured in the 1973 movie The Sting. Marvin Hamlisch’s recording was a surprise hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. His soundtrack recording for the movie won a Oscar for Best Original Song Score and Adaptation. The New York Times wrote “thanks to the film and its score, Joplin’s work became appreciated in both the popular and classical musical worlds.” WK Record World proclaimed it the “classical phenomenon of the decade.” WK

Perhaps the most amusing revelation of the song’s iconic status, however, is that it has become one of the songs often played by ice cream trucks to attract customers while driving through neighborhoods. WK


First posted 4/3/2021; last updated 9/5/2023.

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