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King of RagtimeScott Joplin and His Era$
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Edward A. Berlin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199740321

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740321.001.0001

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Ragtime Before Scott Joplin

Ragtime Before Scott Joplin

(p.46) Chapter 4 Ragtime Before Scott Joplin
King of Ragtime

Edward A. Berlin

Oxford University Press

Rhythmic elements that were to become associated with ragtime, and which were recognized as clichés for African American music, were used on the minstrel stage in the 1880s. The term “rag,” identified as a music style by 1893, had previously been applied to dance events going back at least to 1881. The full term “ragtime” first appeared in print in 1896, having been popularized, and perhaps originated, by Ben Harney. One of the earliest and most popular pieces identified as a rag was the “Bully Song,” which had six publications with slightly different titles and different composers claiming credit, suggesting folk origin. The “Bully Song” is a “coon song,” a popular style that disparages African Americans with coarse, stereotypical language. Instrumental music called rags began appearing in 1897, most emphasizing rhythms associated with syncopated cakewalk music.

Keywords:   ragtime, rag, Ben Harney, Ernest Hogan, Bully Song, cakewalk, coon song, New Coon in Town, Chicago World’s Fair

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