Eubie Blake Critical Essays

Al Rose


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although Eubie Blake was not written specifically for young adults, the material involved is both interesting and educational for them. Rose uses his own experiences with Blake as an effective component in presenting his subject’s life. He writes about Blake with absolute honesty, not disguising the less socially presentable aspects of his character. For this reason, the book is more appropriate for teenage readers than younger readers.

As Blake’s preface notes, Rose has considerable knowledge of American music and “old-time” show business. The extent of that knowledge and the ease with which Rose incorporates it in his story make the book a thorough exploration of the history of twentieth century American music. Rose situates Blake’s life against the background of the contemporary music scene by constant comparison. He generally begins each new chapter by examining the ambience of the era concerned. The chapter entitled “A Different World,” for example, begins with the words “Everybody knows about the great depression. And if you’re over fifty, you remember the world of entertainment between 1930 and 1935 mostly as cheap movie theaters and the radio, which was free.” This conversational tone allows the reader to gain familiarity with the author’s experiences while learning about Blake’s life. These experiences include popular culture as well as popular music, and often semiclassical and classical music as well. Eubie Blake is a highly instructive text as a history of twentieth century music.

The book’s particular emphasis is ragtime, a highly recognizable American musical form first played predominantly by African Americans. Rose mentions...

(The entire section is 698 words.)