Controversy also surrounded its origin; it was suggested that the song was written not by Berlin but by the black pianist Lukie Johnson, which Johnson himself denied. Later, Scott Joplin claimed Berlin had stolen the music from his opera Treemonisha
; the two men do appear to have met, but that is as far as it went. Treemonisha
was registered for copyright two month's after "Alexander's...", but this did not deter Joplin, who died in 1917 convinced his work had been plagiarized. Towards the end of his life, Scott Joplin suffered from a degenerative illness which affected his mental powers, so the assertion must be treated with caution. His biographer Edward Berlin has made a careful study of this claim, but although, he says, there are similarities between "Alexander's..." and "A Real Slow Drag
", this is hardly surprising, as a great many songs and instrumentals were written in the same style at that time.
Berlin himself became incensed at some of the claims being made about the supposed origins of the song. Although ragtime was superceded by jazz, the title was eventually used for a film. The 1938 extravaganza by Twentieth Century Fox featured no less than twenty-eight Berlin songs including of course the one that had inspired it.
Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3