Eubie Blake

In the world of jazz, Eubie Blake stood as one of the giants of the genre. James Hubert Blake was born in Baltimore City on February 7, 1883. He began playing the pipe organ at the age of six. Many people who heard Blake play in his youth called him a genius when he was only eight, but he did begin formal piano lessons until the age of twelve. Although he grew up in a devoutly religious home, at fifteen, Blake began sneaking out every weekend to sing and play in some of the juke joints, brothels, and hotels around the city. Blake's style of play was called "Ragtime," and it was most popular from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1920's. By the time he was nineteen, Blake made music his profession, performing throughout Baltimore, New York, and Atlantic City. In 1915, Blake met Noble Sissle, his future business partner and friend. Together, Blake and Sissle performed around the world, playing ragtime, and developing performing shows. On May 23, 1921, their show, "Shuffle Along," premiered on Broadway in New York City. "Shuffle Along" was a momentous achievement; it was the first all African American written, produced, and cast play in Broadway's history. Blake continued producing shows and composing music until World War II, when he initially retired from music. But in 1969, Blake came out of retirement, riding a wave of a national rediscovery of the style he mastered during the first half of the century. Although he was 86 at the time, Blake stood as one of the last living legends of ragtime, and continued to perform across the country. In 1978, the musical "Eubie" celebrated his life and career, in 1981, he won the Medal of Freedom, and in 1982, he gave his last live performance at New York's Lincoln Center. Eubie Blake died at the age of 100 on February 12, 1983.     

1900 Census of Blake family

Eubie Blake 1931

March: Mathias de Sousa (1641)

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