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date: 14 July 2020

Joplin, Scott locked

  • Edward A. Berlin


(b northeast TX, between July 19, 1867 and mid-Jan 1868; d New York, NY, April 1, 1917). American composer. He is regarded as ragtime’s greatest exponent. Census records of 1870 and 1880 and Joplin’s death certificate establish that the frequently cited birth date of 24 November 1868 is incorrect.

Joplin was the child of a former slave and a free-born black woman and grew up in the town of Texarkana on the Texas–Arkansas border. His mother took an active interest in his musical education, and most members of his family played musical instruments; a German immigrant musician (perhaps Julius Weiss) who taught the young Joplin also seems to have played a significant role in the formation of his artistic aspirations.

His activities during the 1880s are not documented, but anecdotal evidence suggests that he lived for a while in Sedalia, Missouri, a town later linked to his early fame. He also worked as a travelling musician and became a close associate of the ragtime pioneer Tom Turpin in St. Louis. In ...

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