Saturday, January 12, 2019

Genius: Beautiful Then, Even More Beautiful Now!

Last week as we enjoyed Mike Davis and The New Wonders at the Tri-State Jazz Society concert in Haddonfield we delighted in their rendition of Hubi Blake's classic Love Will Find A Way -- a song not heard very much these days.
Eubie Blake, ragtime composer and performer, was born on February 7,1883 in Baltimore, Md. 
At the age of four or five, Blake began playing his family's pump organ. Noticing his interest in music, Blake's parents signed him up for piano lessons with a neighborhood teacher. In 1898, at the age of 15, Blake became interested in ragtime, to his mother's dismay. Against her wishes and without her knowing, he began his professional music career by playing ragtime piano in Baltimore brothels, honky tonks and bars. He later played in clubs and saloons. 
Blake's work led him to meet the major musicians of the time. One of whom, Noble Sissle, would later become his partner. The pair met in 1915. Sissle joined Blake's band as a singer. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake created a vaudeville act, the Dixie Duo. They wrote songs and performed. Sophie Tucker sang their first song, "It's All Your Fault," and the song became an instant hit. 
Then Blake and Sissle teamed up with another duo to create Shuffle Along. The Broadway all-star cast included Josephine Baker, Florence Mills and Paul Robeson. Many of Blake's most famous songs come from Shuffle Along including "Love Will Find a Way". The play was so popular that in 1921 it was being performed by three different touring companies. 
Then, as the popularity of ragtime faded, Eubie Blake took a twenty-three year break from show business. In 1969, at the age of 56 he returned. Blake toured the world playing piano and giving lectures on ragtime music. He made an album called The Fifty-six Years of Blake and he formed his own company. 
Just over one hundred years after his life began, on February 12, 1983, Eubie Blake died in Brooklyn, New York. 
Here Eubie Blake, at 95, is featured during a Peter Appleyard show and plays his former hit "Love Will Find a Way"

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