THE STARS

Composers, Lyricists & Writers

Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake grew up to the sounds of ragtime music, and before the turn of the century was playing piano in sporting houses and other similar establishments. He was a composer too, and in 1915 joined forces with Noble Sissle; they played in vaudeville as a double act and wrote together extensively. In 1921 Sissle and Blake wrote the score for a Broadway show — a remarkable accomplishment for blacks at that time. “Shuffle Along,” which starred Flournoy Miller, Aubrey Lyles, Gertrude Saunders, and Sissle himself (with Blake on the piano), included several admirable songs, including “Bandana Days,” “Gypsy Blues,” “Love Will Find a Way,” “Everything Reminds Me of You,” “Shuffle Along,” and “If You’ve Never Been Vamped by a Brown Skin (You’ve Never Been Vamped at All).”

Eubie Blake grew up to the sounds of ragtime music.

There was also one enormous hit, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” which became popular at the time for artists such as Marion Harris, Ray Miller, and Paul Whiteman, among others, and gave a boost to Harry S. Truman’s election campaign in 1948. Blake contributed to other Broadway musicals and revues such as “Elsie,” Andre Charlot’s “Revue of 1924,” and Lew Leslie’s “Blackbirds of 1930.” For the latter, he and Andy Razaf wrote “Baby Mine,” “That Lindy Hop,” “My Handy Man Ain’t Handy No More,” and another substantial hit, the lovely reflective ballad “Memories of You.” After one more Broadway musical, “Swing It” (1937), Blake reunited with Sissle for a time, and then spent much of World War II entertaining troops with the USO.

Eubie Blake

Born: February 7, 1883
Died: February 12, 1983
Key Shows
  • "Chocolate Dandies"
  • "Elsie"
  • "Lew Leslie's Blackbirds"
  • "Shuffle Along"
  • "Swing It"
Related Artists
  • Irving Berlin
  • George White
  • Noble Sissle
  • Ethel Waters
In the ’50s Blake demonstrated and lectured on ragtime, but his day seemed to be past. Then, in 1969, at the age of 86, Blake’s fortunes were revived when John Hammond recorded the old man playing piano and talking about his life. The concurrent vogue for ragtime helped his comeback and the next years were filled with honors, recordings, concerts, festivals, and television appearances; in 1978, his life and music were celebrated in a Broadway show, “Eubie,” which was also televised in the USA and later staged in London. In 1983 Blake contributed to the lists of favorite quotations when, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, he said: “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.” He died five days later.

FURTHER READING:
REMINISCING WITH SISSLE AND BLAKE, Robert Kimball and William Bolcom.
EUBIE BLAKE, Al Rose.
EUBIE BLAKE: KEYS OF MEMORY, Lawrence T. Carter.

Source: Biographical information provided by MUZE. Excerpted from the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, edited by Colin Larkin. © 2004 MUZE UK Ltd.

Photo credits: Photofest, Getty Images, and the New York Public Library

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