The Entertainer by Marvin Hamlisch (MCA, 1974)

It’s simple to just dismiss Marvin Hamlisch as just another one-hit wonder. But my man’s got an EGOT (Tracy Jordan knows what I’m talking about) – an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Only 11 people in the world have EGOTs. Marvin became the 6th in 1995. He’s also the only musician to win 3 Oscars in one year. And he did it with 2 different soundtracks – The Way We Were and The Sting. Marvin was hot in 1974. So much so that his version of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer made the Top #3 in May of 1974. [Billy Joel made the Top 40 later that year with an original song called The Entertainer, which nearly killed his career.]

No seemed to mention or care that the song The Entertainer was originally a ragtime classic that was already out of date by the 30s, when the film, The Sting took place. It would be akin to setting a Vietnam war movie with a soundtrack of Ice Ice Baby & I’m Too Sexy. So how did that anachronistic song get recorded for the film?

Well, as you may know, or may not know, in the early 70s, there was ragtime or more importantly a Scott Joplin revival, spearheaded by the release of conductor and musicologist Joshua Rifkin’s Scott Joplin: Piano Rags released on LP in 1970. They sold very well, and a few more volumes were released. This new-found appreciation must have kick-started an idea to capitalize on the trend with MCA Records or maybe the studio that was releasing The Sting. They probably figured that people wouldn’t care and what the hell? – let’s rewrite musical history and sell a few LPs.

I always loved the song as a kid mostly cause it sounded like something Bugs Bunny would have danced to. Plus, it has all of those quirky breakdowns with piccolos and tubas. It sounded like a carnival, which is probably why ice cream trucks play the tune sometimes. Mostly though, they play the Ice Cream Man song (not the one by Van Halen). Imagine how funny it sounded on American Top 40 surrounded by Dancing Machine by Jackson 5 and The Locomotion by Grand Funk. Then again, maybe it fit right in.

Marvin also co-wrote the Bond theme to The Spy Who Loved Me, Nobody Does It Better sung by Carly Simon as well as writing the music to the musical, A Chorus Line, which ran for over 6000 Broadway performances.

The Entertainer

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  1. The Chartist

     /  September 26, 2012

    THere were so many cheaply recorded ragtime albums by session men made after this hit in the UK. Some more sessioneers imaginatively known as “The Ragtimers” had a big UK hit with this one

  2. Don’t suppose you know the personnel for this recording? Have wondered for a long time who the trumpet, clarinet and tuba were on the original. Hard to find that info.


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