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Other titles in the Missouri Biographies series:
Dancing to a Black Man's Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin (Missouri Biographies)by Susan Curtis
Synopses & Reviews
Though born into a time when blacks were denied basic civil rights and opportunities, Scott Joplin's music was embraced by the white middle class. The story of American cultural history is countered with fascinating events from Joplin's life in this engaging portrait.
Book News Annotation:
In this interpretive biography, Curtis (American history, Purdue U.) recounts the life of the African American composer who helped break down racial barriers by creating a uniquely black musical form embraced by middle-class whites. Joplin's life, framed by two decisive events in American history--the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 and the entrance into the Great War in 1917-- illuminates a crucial period in the evolution of American culture. Includes b&w photos and reproductions. CIP shows the subtitle as A Biography of Scott Joplin.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In the early twentieth century, as Americans enjoyed ragtime, they danced to a black man's tune. In this interpretive biography, Susan Curtis recounts the life of Scott Joplin, the great African American ragtime composer whose musical genius helped break down racial barriers and led America to a new cultural frontier. Born in 1868 to former slaves, Scott Joplin lived at a time when white Americans routinely denied African Americans basic civil rights, economic opportunities, and social standing. In spite of these tremendous obstacles, Joplin and other musicians created a musical form that was eagerly embraced by white, middle-class Americans. By the early 1900s, many writers agreed that "Negro" music - especially spirituals and ragtime - was the only true American music. As one of the creators of ragtime, Joplin moved between black and white society, and his experience offers a window into the complex forces of class, race, and culture that shaped modern America. Framed by two decisive events in American history, the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1868 and America's entrance into the Great War in Europe in 1917, Scott Joplin's extraordinary life illuminates a crucial period in the evolution of American culture. During those years Joplin lived in a variety of communities, and his experience permits a glimpse into the ways black and white Americans responded to this changing culture in Reconstruction Texas, small-town Missouri, and two important urban cultural centers - St. Louis and New York. Echoing the ragtime music she celebrates, Curtis counterpoints the story of American cultural history with the fascinating events of Joplin's life. Dancing to BlackMan's Tune is an engaging, beautifully written portrait of a great American musician and of American culture coming of age.
By using Scott Joplin's life as a window onto American social and cultural development at the turn of the century, this biography dramatizes the role of one brilliant African American musician in defining the culture of a still-young nation.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 239-257) and index.
About the Author
"Dancing to a Black Man's Tune renders Scott Joplin as a man and an artist whose musical genius served as his weapon in the struggle toward a whole America. Susan Curtis's book is more than biography, more than cultural history. It is a skillfully interwoven telling of Joplin's story within the mosaic of America's social and cultural evolution at the turn of the century."
--John Hope Franklin
"If one is to know American culture and the place and trials and tribulations' of African American music in setting the foundation and flavor of American music, Dancing to a Black Man's Tune is, to date, the primary source. . . . This is a book that students of American serious and popular culture should quickly read and place in their libraries."--Journal of American History
"Curtis sets Joplin in his context and evaluates the scope and importance of his contribution to American culture. . . . Especially good in avoiding clichés while discussing the tensions between white commercial demands on Joplin and his desire to compose his more serious music, this is a highly useful book well done."--Booklist
"Curtis has written a fine book with a broad scope, one that needed to be written. . . . Curtis has set impressive standards of historical inquiry in this book, creating a lucid argument about the meaning of Scott Joplin and ragtime."--Gateway Heritage
"What makes this biography truly outstanding is the author's skillful and always sharply analytical exploration of the varied worlds in which Joplin traveled. . . . Curtis has composed an appealing tune of her own--a fine book that deserves a hearty ovation."--Historian
"For those who have fallen in love with Joplin's joyfully syncopated rags . . . or those who simply want to better understand the roots of the black contribution to American music, it is a rewarding read."--Christian Science Monitor
"Dancing to a Black Man's Tune is a much-needed addition. Aside from the general value of placing Joplin's life within the complex and dynamic cultural changes of his time, Curtis introduces or reinforces extremely important, but typically overlooked, facts. . . . This is a significant contribution to the study of Joplin and his music and to the study of American culture."
--Journal of Southern History
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Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Folk » American Folk