Music: Scott Joplin (1902)

Background

“The Entertainer” is one of the classics of ragtime. In the June 7, 1903 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, contemporary composer Monroe H. Rosenfeld described it as “the best and most euphonious” of Joplin’s compositions to that point. “It is a jingling work of a very original character, embracing various strains of a retentive character which set the foot in spontaneous action and leave an indelible imprint on the tympanum.”

Suggested by the rag’s dedication to “James Brown and his Mandolin Club,” author Rudi Blesh wrote that “some of the melodies recall the pluckings and the fast tremolos of the little steel-stringed plectrum instruments…” In fact, Stark issued an arrangement of the piece for two mandolins and a guitar.

Performances

Here is a piano roll recording of Scott Joplin:

Here is Marvin Hamlisch’s adaptation of the piece for the 1973 movie The Sting, which returned the song to international prominence as part of the ragtime revival of the 1970s: