Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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The Entertainer

First performed by Scott Joplin (1902).
First recorded (as “Easy Winner”) by The Blue Boys (1928).
Also recorded by Joshua Rifkin (1970).
Hit version by Marvin Hamlisch (US #3/MOR #1 1973).

From the wiki: “‘The Entertainer’, a classic piano rag, was composed in 1902 by Scott Joplin. It was sold first as sheet music. Later, in the 1910s, it enjoyed sales as a ‘piano roll’ to be played/reproduced on player pianos. It was not until 1928 when ‘The Entertainer’ was first recorded by blues and ragtime musicians, The Blue Boys, playing on mandolin and guitar. The Blue Boys were Matthew Prater and Napoleon Hayes, from Vicksburg, MS, and they combined their recording into a medley with ‘Creole Belle’, titling it ‘Easy Winner’.

“During the second half of the 20th century, a Scott Joplin revival occurred. In November 1970, Joshua Rifkin released a recording called Scott Joplin: Piano Rags on the classical label Nonesuch, which featured as its second track ‘The Entertainer’. The album sold 100,000 copies in its first year and eventually became Nonesuch’s first million-selling record. Music critic Alan Rich, writing in New York Magazine, opined that by giving artists like Rifkin the opportunity to put Joplin’s music on disk, Nonesuch Records ‘created, almost alone, the Scott Joplin revival Rifkin’s album was nominated in 1971 for two Grammy Award categories, Best Album Notes and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra). .’

“The Joplin revival continued into 1973 when ‘The Entertainer’ was used as the theme music for the Oscar-winning film The Sting. Composer and pianist Marvin Hamlisch’s adaptation and orchestration of ‘The Entertainer’ reached #3 on the Billboard pop chart and spent a week at #1 on the easy listening chart in May 1974, and it would later win an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and Adaptation.”

The Blue Boys, “Easy Winner” (1928):

Joshua Rifkin, “The Entertainer” (1970):

Marvin Hamlisch, “The Entertainer” (1973):

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