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Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag

Here’s a hint: a “raggy” calendar is bound to be full of holes…?

While many composers leave incomplete records of their birthdays, Scott Joplin’s birthday is debatable within an entire year! Based on later documents, we used to think that Joplin had been born in November 1868. Recently, however, census records show that he was probably born at some point in the six months prior to January of that same year, about a year earlier than we’d thought! Joplin had his first hit in 1899 with the Maple Leaf Rag. His first opera, The Guest of Honor, however, is unfortunately lost. The opera celebrated President Theodore Roosevelt’s controversial decision to invite black educator and reformer Booker T. Washington to the White House. Joplin also published a Strenuous Life rag, inspired by Roosevelt and the physically demanding lifestyle that the president championed.

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