• Oscar Brown, Jr.

THE ENTERTAINER

Oscar Brown, Jr.’s poem in tribute to, and set to the music of Scott Joplin


Were there any who cared or cried

The day the ragtime piano man died?

Were there any who sobbed and sighed?

As they carted him on his final ride

Was there much of a damn they gave?

About this talented son of a slave

When the brother passed on

Another colored man gone

Without a marker to put on his grave


Where there any who truly knew

What made the black entertainer so blue

The depression he fell into

Over dreams that were never coming true

Was there much of a damn they gave

About this talented son of a slave

When the brother passed on

Another colored man gone

Without a marker to put on his grave


He played his ragtime tunes

In honky-tonk saloons

Piano music that the public loved to hear

Its syncopated beat

Got them to tapping their feet

Made all their cares and troubles disappear


He had such happy sounds

That as he made the rounds

The Entertainer finally saw his talent pay

Therefore a little while

Chile’ he was living in style

Making the music of the day


Out of his ragtime themes

He built ambitious dreams

In which his music turned to opera on the stage

A mighty work of art

He felt with all his heart

Ragtime music was the classic of his age


But then a change of taste

Laid all his dreams to waste

The fickle public found itself another craze

Therefore a little bit

He was a pretty big hit

But it was just a passing phase


Where there any who felt the pain

That drove the black entertainer insane

The frustration that racked his brain

Just to think “all that work had been in vain”

Was there much of a damn they gave

About this talented son of a slave

When the brother passed on another nigger just gone

Without a marker to put on his grave


Born ahead of his time

Died while yet in his prime

From a chronic condition

Caused by the lack of recognition


Born ahead of his time

Died while yet in his prime

Beaten by an ambition

For which he couldn’t raise a dime.


Born ….in 1868

Died…. In 1917

Scott Joplin, whose music won an academy award

56 years after he was laid in an unmarked grave.


Ahead of his time

While yet in his prime

Beaten by an ambition

For which he couldn’t raise a dime


Where were all the mans (he was an entertainer)

Multitude of fans (oh what an entertainer)

Those who clapped their hands

To hear the entertainer play the ragtime dance


Tell me where were they? (he was an entertainer)

When he passed away (oh what an entertainer)

There for a bit, he was really a hit

But it was ….. what can I say?


(This song is used in the score of OBJ’s musical about Scott Joplin, called Maple Leaf)


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