Category Archives: Biography

King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin; Oxford University Press, 1994. Kindle Edition

After reading Joplin’s Ghost, my interest was peaked about the life of Scott Joplin.  Since Tananarive Due used actual historical data to craft her novel, I selected King of Ragtime by historian Edward A. Berlin who she referenced and characterized in Joplin’s Ghost.

Berlin has a great balance of story and technical information that appeal to both the musician and lay reader like myself with no-to-little knowledge of musical technicalities.   Joplin’s embrace and passion for being an artist pitted against the racial struggles of the times and woven through by the threads of his personal relationships in business, family, friends, and love really fascinated me.  Also, I learned that he was considered the King of Ragtime WRITERS.  Due to his passion for scripting his music and his popularity and name recognition, publishers made money from his Rags.  It was only when Joplin reached to grow as an artist with selecting complex African American syncopation to transpose into operatic/classical form was he met my marketing and cultural naysayers.  He was pigeon-holed as determined by White socio-economic power structure.  For that, I grieved because not much has changed in 100 years.

Edward A. Berlin’s Home Page.

I plan to do a quilt to speak to my new found impression of Joplin alongside another quilt inspired by Oliver Lewis, the first winner of the Kentucky Derby.  The times in which both men lived and worked overlaps.  I haven’t worked out a design yet,…wanting it only to hint at representational imagery and keeping with my love of mystical abstraction.

The one thing that I kept looking for is some reference of Scott Joplin appearing in Louisville, but Berlin doesn’t reference any.  However, one of Joplin’s brothers, Robert Joplin managed a club here for 2 months before being let go.  I’m going to start with research at the Filson Historical Society when weather permits to see if there is any record of Scott Joplin performing here.  With him being based in St. Louis, I can’t imagine that he never ventured here.  From there, I will delve into UofL’s records.  Something interesting is bound to turn up!

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Filed under African American, Art, Author Links, Biography, culture, economics, history, Kindle, King of Ragtime, musical, musical

Amazing Grace-A Life of Beauford Delaney, by David Leeming

Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, hardcover, 221 pages.

I started reading this last night.  I checked it out from the public library after stumbling over it while looking for another book.   To my knowing there are just so few biographies of African/American Artists.  The author has also written a biography of James Baldwin and at the time of publication was a Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Conneticut. 

The book opens with the author sitting with two elderly nieces in the Delaney home in Knoxville, Tennessee.  One of them, Imogene, is playing Amazing Grace on the piano as they sing along as if conjuring the spirit of Mr. Delaney.  Amazing Grace was his favorite song. 

Having befriended James Baldwin, the author was introduced to Beauford Delaney, whom Baldwin referred to as his “spiritual father”.  Leeming recognizes that his personal contact with Delaney was limited but having meet him, the time spent impacted him greatly, along with the personal stories that Baldwin and others relayed which kept him alive after he had passed on. 

I didn’t get very far before dozing off to sleep, but having discovered that Amazing Grace was his favorite song and that he faced serious mental health issues, and he life ended while in an aslyum in Paris, I’m wondering what his art meant to him and how he worked.

Read Chapter 1 online.

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Filed under African American, Beauford Delaney, Biography, Library book, Painters