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Famous Like Me > Composer > B > Eubie Blake

Profile of Eubie Blake on Famous Like Me

Name: Eubie Blake  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 7th February 1883
Place of Birth: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Eubie Blake

James Hubert "Eubie" Blake (February 7, 1887 - February 12, 1983) was a composer and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music, as well as a lyricist. With his long time collaborator Noble Sissle Blake wrote the Broadway Musical Shuffle Along in 1921; this was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African-Americans. Blake's hit compositions included "Bandana Days" "Charleston Rag", "Love Will Find A Way", "Memories of You", and "I'm Just Wild About Harry". In 1978, the musical Eubie opened on Broadway.


He was born as "James Hubert Blake" at 319 Forest Street in Baltimore, Maryland on February 7, 1887 to Emma (1861-?) and John Blake (1838-?). Both parents were former slaves. He had seven siblings and all had died as infants, he was the only child that lived. In 1894 the family moved to 414 North Eden Street, then to 1510 Jefferson Street. John Blake worked as a stevedore, making nine dollars a week.


Blakes musical training began when he was just four or five years old. While out shopping with his mother, he wandered into a music store, climbed on the bench of an organ, and started "foolin’" around. When his mother found him, the manager of the store told her, "The child is a genius! It would be criminal to deprive him of the chance to make use of such a sublime, God-given talent." The Blakes bought a $75 dollar pump organ paying 25 cents a week. When he was seven, Eubie received music lessons from their next-door neighbor, Margaret Marshall, an organist from the Methodist church. At the age of fifteen, without his parent's knowledge, he played piano at Aggie Shelton’s Baltimore bordello.


Eubie said he first composed the melody to the Charleston Rag in 1899, but he did not commit it to paper until 1915, when he learned how to write musical notation.


In July of 1910 Eubie married Avis Elizabeth Cecelia Lee (1881-1938), proposing to her in a chauffeur driven car he had hired. Eubie and Avis had met around 1895 while they were both attending Primary School No. 2 at 200 East Street in Baltimore. In 1910 Eubie brought Avis to Atlantic City, New Jersey. when he was working at the Boathouse nightclub. In 1938 Avis was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died that year at the age of 58. Eubie said: "In my life I never knew what it was to be alone. At first when Avis got sick, I thought she just had a cold, but when time passed and she didn’t get better, I made her go to a doctor and we found out she had TB ... I suppose I knew from when we found out she had the TB, I understood that it was just a matter of time."


Blake continued to play and record until shortly before what everyone thought was his 100th birthday. He uttered the memorable quote, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." He died in 1983 in Brooklyn just 5 days after celebrating his "100th" birthday, even though he was just 96 years old. He was interred in the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Age problem

In later years Eubie listed his birth year as "1883" and his 100th birthday was celebrated in 1983. Most sources including Encyclopedia Brittanica incorrectly list his birth year as "1883". Every official document issued by the government lists his birthday as "February 7, 1887". This includes the 1900 Census with "February 1887", his 1917 World War I draft registration, 1920 passport application, and 1936 Social Security application. Peter Hanley writes: "In the final analysis, however, the fact that he was only ninety-six years of age and not one hundred when he died cannot detract, in any way, from his extraordinary achievements. He will always remain among the finest popular composers and songwriters of his era."


In 1995 Eubie Blake was honored with a United States postage stamp. James Hubert Blake High School was built in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1998.


  • 1887 Birth
  • 1900 US Census with "Hubert Blake" in Baltimore
  • 1910 US Census with "Hubert Blake" in Baltimore
  • 1910 Marriage to Avis Elizabeth Cecelia Lee (1881-1938)
  • 1915 Meets Noble Sissle on May 16th
  • 1917 World War I draft registration working at the "Cleff Club"
  • 1920 US passport application
  • 1920 US passport
  • 1920 US Census as "James Blake" in New York City
  • 1921 Shuffle Along composed
  • 1925 US passport
  • 1930 US Census with "Hubert Blake" in New York City
  • 1938 Avis dies of tuberculosis
  • 1973 Appears on Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on January 27th
  • 1978 Eubie opens on Broadway
  • 1981 Awarded Medal of Freedom
  • 1983 "100th" birthday celebration
  • 1983 Death of Eubie Blake

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Eubie Blake