Produced in Maryland on February 7, 1883, Eubie Blake went to become a revered ragtime pianist and composer for American musicals. He entered right into a partnership with singer songwriter Noble Sissle in 1915; the two would work jointly on the 1921 musical Shuffle Along, featuring the mega hit “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” Blake composed numerous songs and received many accolades for his work. He died in Brooklyn, Ny, on February 12, 1983, a day or two after his 100th birthday. Blake’s spiritual mom ran a strict family while his dad stressed the need for schooling, having become literate despite being enslaved.
Blake, whose nickname, “Hubie,” would be tweaked to Eubie, began playing the pump organ as a kid together with the encouragement of his mom. Though initially slated to play for the church, Blake was attracted to the more free-flowing musical style of ragtime and also would sneak out to play in a closeby brothel—Aggie Shelton’s Bawdy Home. In 1899, while working at Shelton’s, Blake composed his first ragtime for piano, “Sounds of Africa,” after known as “Charleston Rag.”
In 1907, he began playing in the Goldfield Hotel in Baltimore, possessed by African American prize fighter Joe Gans; there, Blake built a reputation as a leading performer and composer. (Blake composed and printed his own ragtime compositions, though he’d bring in much less than he should have due to unethical music publishing practices.) In 1910, Blake wed classical pianist Avis Lee, a girl he revered as a graceful beauty. They were married until her death in 1939.
In May 1915, while in Baltimore, Blake met vocalist and lyricist Noble Sissle, and the two embarked on a rewarding partnership. They shortly composed “Ot’s All Your Fault,” which became a smash for vaudeville vocalist Sophie Tucker. In 1916, via Sissle’s recommendation, Blake subsequently joined the Society Orchestra, a Harlem-based group headed by James Reese Europe.
In 1945, Blake registered in a music program at New York University and graduated in the age of 67. During the 1950s, ragtime once again started to be understood by the public and therefore within the years Blake would be recognized as among the great living purveyors of the sort. In 1978, the show Eubie! premiered on Broadway, a hit musical summary of the leader’s life. James “Eubie” Blake expired on February 12, 1983, a day or two after turning 100, in Brooklyn, Ny.