Eubie Blake was one of the popular pianists and composers of the early 20th Century, and helped usher in the ragtime sound of that era. Today is the Baltimore native’s birthday.
James Hubert Blake was born in 1887 and raised in Baltimore. He began playing music at a young age, getting lessons from a local church organist while in grade school. At 15, Blake began breaking away from his family’s strong religious beliefs and playing at a local brothel. This led to other club gigs and a chance meeting in 1915 with fellow composer Noble Sissle changed his life.
The pair would go on to create one of the first Broadway musicals written by and for African-Americans in “Shuffle Along,” which helped launch the careers of Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, and others.
As the ragtime sound began to wan in the ‘40s, Blake entered a music program at New York University graduating at 67 years old. In the ‘50s, there was a resurgence of the ragtime sound and Blake was rightfully recognized as one of the forefathers of the genre. Blake would end up playing live shows well into his 90’s, composing over 350 songs at the end of his career.
Eubie Blake passed in February 1983 at the age of 96.
PHOTO: Public Domain