Blake, Eubie

Blake, Eubie

(James Hubert Blake), 1883–1983, African-American pianist and composer, b. Baltimore. His career has extended from ragtime (see jazzjazz,
the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music. Origins of Jazz

Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent.
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) to the 1980s. With the songwriter Noble Sissle he produced early African-American Broadway musicals, e.g., Shuffle Along (1921). His most famous songs are "Memories of You" and "I'm Just Wild about Harry."
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Blake, (James Hubert) Eubie

(1883–1983) composer, pianist; born in Baltimore, Md. He studied piano as a child and sang outside saloons in a vocal quartet at age 12. While a teenager he began playing piano at bordellos, traveling in minstrel shows, and playing in fine hotels in Baltimore and Atlantic City. He published his first song in 1914; in 1915 he met Noble Sissle, who soon became his lyricist; in 1916 they began their long collaboration, producing many classic ragtime hits and performing as the "The Dixie Duo." They also wrote their first Broadway show, the famous all-black musical, Shuffle Along (1921) (including "I'm Just Wild About Harry"). For the next decades, Blake continued his career, writing songs and musicals, sometimes with Sissle, sometimes with other lyricists; Andy Razaf was the lyricist of Blake's signature song "Memories of You" (1930). He led orchestras, toured during World War II, and helped found the Negro Actors Guild; he and Sissle brought an updated Shuffle Along of 1952 to Broadway, but it flopped. By now Blake had slipped into retirement and was largely forgotten until his music was discovered in the late 1960s and he found himself honored as an American original. The musical Eubie (1978) was an anthology of his songs. He performed in public almost until his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.