Alexander’s Ragtime Band

  • The Song
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composition date
PBS Episode(s)
related media performance(s)
“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” performed by Michael Feinstein, music and lyric by Irving Berlin
type: Show
venue: Kaye Auditorium, Boca Raton, FL
media: Video
Irving Berlin
related performer(s)
Bing Crosby
Al Jolson

Approaching ragtime

Though it is considered a ragtime song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” bears little relationship to traditional ragtime. After the huge success of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899, the first white songwriter to capitalize on the new rhythms and counterpoint was Joseph E. Howard, in the song “Hello, Ma Baby,” which he wrote that very same year. In 1902, Hughie Cannon wrote the ragtime tune “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home.” It took Berlin longer to absorb the rag influences but when he finally did he was generally accepted as the first white songwriter to incorporate ragtime. Songs like “Play Some Ragtime” (1910), “Stop That Rag,” and “Yiddle on Your Fiddle” helped establish his reputation.

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Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Ethel Merman, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker et al
The 3 part PBS Series
Own the DVD