A Life in Ragtime

A Life in Ragtime : A Biography of James Reese Europe

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James Reese Europe is one of the most important transitional figures in American music. As a composer and band leader at the height of ragtime, he had a strong influence on the first generation of jazz musicians who were to follow. Europe's life reveals much about the role of black musicians in American culture in a period when it was presumed they had little place.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 360 pages
  • 163.3 x 241.6 x 31mm | 736.52g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • frontispiece, 16 pp halftones
  • 019506044X
  • 9780195060447

Review quote

Reid Badger's intelligent biography fills an important gap. * Times Literary Supplement * this is sure to become the definitive sourcebook for information on Europe and his contemporaries ... an absolutely essential purchase * Mark Berresford, Jazz and Blues Mart, Summer '95 *show more

About Reid Badger

Reid Badger is Professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. His books include The Great American Fair: The World's Columbian Exposition and American Culture.show more

Back cover copy

In A Life in Ragtime, Reid Badger brilliantly captures the fascinating life of James Reese Europe, tracing a critical chapter in the emergence of jazz through one man's remarkable odyssey. After an early start in Washington, Europe found his fame in New York, the entertainment capital of turn-of-the-century America. In the decade before the First World War, he emerged as an acknowledged leader in African-American musical theater, both as a conductor and as a prolific composer. Europe toiled constantly, working on benefit concerts, joining hands with W.E.B. Du Bois, and helping to found a black music school - all the while winning commercial and critical success with his music. In 1910, he helped create the Clef Club, making it the premiere African-American musical organization in the country during his presidency. Every year from 1912 to 1914, Europe led the Clef Club orchestra in triumphant concerts at Carnegie Hall, winning new respectability and popularity for ragtime. He went on to an extraordinarily successful collaboration with Vernon and Irene Castle, the international stars who made social dancing a world-wide rage. In World War I, the musical pioneer won new fame as the first African-American officer to lead men into combat in that conflict - but he was best known as band leader for the all-black 15th Infantry Regiment. As the "Hellfighters" of the 15th racked up successes on the battlefield, Europe's band took France by storm with the new sounds of jazz. In 1919, the soldiers returned to New York in triumph, and Europe was the toast of the city. Then, just a few months later, he was dead - stabbed to death by a drummer in his own orchestra. From humble beginnings to tragicend, the story of Jim Europe comes alive in Reid Badger's account.show more

Rating details

8 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 38% (3)
4 25% (2)
3 38% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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