A Real Slow Drag

Album: The Complete Scott Joplin (1913)
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Songfacts®:

  • Although it has words, "A Real Slow Drag" records best as an instrumental. This is the last piece from Scott Joplin's opera, Treemonisha, which was performed only once during his lifetime, the drag being a dance.
  • Joplin published the sheet music himself, in 1913; although a fairly unexceptional song, "A Real Slow Drag" generated a certain amount of controversy when it was claimed Irving Berlin had ripped off the music for "Alexander's Ragtime Band", the most popular song of the decade - which was copyrighted two months before Treemonisha.

    Joplin himself believed this, and went to his death convinced of Berlin's duplicity, but in the last years of his life he suffered from a degenerative illness which affected his mental faculties, so it remains to be seen how seriously his claims should be taken. When Joplin's biographer Edward Berlin examined the evidence he concluded that the two songs were similar, but this was hardly surprising when one considers how popular ragtime was soon to become. "A Real Slow Drag" is in any case a much slower piece than "Alexander's Ragtime Band," as its name suggests, and the latter was developed from an earlier song - "Alexander And His Clarinet" - that Berlin wrote with his boss Ted Snyder. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • This was used on Boardwalk Empire in the 2010 episode "Family Limitation." It was also featured in the 1994 film Crumb, a documentary about controversial cartoonist Robert Crumb.

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