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Prologue: Ragtime Lyrics

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Prologue: Ragtime

 
Ragtime Soundtrack Musical, 1998
CD  ·  DVD  ·  Sheet music

Prologue: Ragtime [THE LITTLE BOY]
In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Brodview
Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York, and it seemed for
some years thereafter that all the family's days would be
warm and fair.

[PEOPLE OF NEW ROCHELLE]
The skies were blue and hazy,
Rarely a storm. Barely a chill

[WOMEN]
La la la la...

[PEOPLE OF NEW ROCHELLE]
The afternoons were lazy,
Everyone warm. Everything still.

[MEN]
La la la la...

[ALL]
And there was distant music,
Simple and somehow sublime,
Giving the nation
A new syncopation-
The people called it Ragtime!

[FATHER]
Father was well-off. Very well-off. his considerable
income was derived from the manufacture and sale of
fireworks and other accoutrements of patriotism. Father
was also something of an amateur explorer.

[MOTHER]
The house on the hill in New Rochelle was Mother's
domain. She took pleasure in making it comfortable
for the men of her family and often told herself how
fortunate she was to be so protected and provided for
by her husband.

[YOUNGER BROTHER]
Mother's Younger Brother worked at Father's fireworks
factory. He was a genius at explosives. But he was also
a young man in search of something to believe in. his
sisterwondered when he would find it.

[GRANDFATHER]
Grandfather had been a professor of Greek and Latin. Now
retired and living with his daughter and her family, he
was thoroughly irritated by everything.

[PEOPLE OF NEW ROCHELLE]
The days were gently tinted
Lavender pink, lemon and lime.

[MOTHER]
Ladies with parasols

[YOUNGER BROTHER]
Fellows with tennis balls

[FATHER]
There were gazebos, and...
The were no negroes.

[PEOPLE OF HARLEM]
And everything was Ragtime!
Listen to the Ragtime!

[COALHOUSE]
In Harlem, men and women of color forgot their
troubles and danced and reveled to the music of
Coalhouse Walker, Jr. This was a music that was theirs
and no one else's.

[SARAH]
One young woman thought Coalhouse played just for her,
Her name was Sarah.

[PEOPLE OF HARLEM]
Ooooh...

[BOOKER T. WASHINGTON]
Booker T. Washington was the most famous Negro
in the country. He counselled friendship between the
races and spoke of the promise of the future. he had no
patience for Negroes who lived less than exemplary lives.

[PEOPLE OF NEW ROCHELLE]
Ladies with parasols,
Fellows with tennis balls.
There were no Negroes
And there were no immigrants.

[TATEH]
In Latvia, a man dremed of a new life for his little girl.
It would be a long journey, a treeible one.
He ould not lose her as he had her mother.
His name was Tateh. He never spoke of his wife.
The Little Girl was all he had now.
Together, they wouuld escape.

[LITTLE BOY]
Houdini! Look it's Houdini!

[CROWD]
Ooh...aah!
Ooh...aah!

[HOUDINI]
Harry Houdini was one immigrant who made and art of
escape. He was a headliner in the top Vaudeville circuits.

[HOUDINI'S MOTHER]
Ich bin die Mutter des grossen Houdinis!

[HOUDINI]
He mad his Mother proud. But for all his achievements, he
knew he was only an illusionist. He wanted to believe
there was more...

Hello, sonny.

[LITTLE BOY]
Warn the Duke!

[HOUDINI]
What did you say?

[PEOPLE OF NEW ROCHELLE]
And there was distant music
Changing the tune, changing the time,

[PEOPLE OF HARLEM]
Giving the nation
A new syncopation:

[ALL]
La, la, la.

[MEN]
La, la, la...

[J.P. MORGAN]
Certain men make a country great.

[HENRY FORD]
They can't help it.

[MORGAN]
At the very apex of the American Pyramid-

[FORD]
-That's the very tip-top!-

[MORGAN]
Like Pharoahs reincarnate, stood J.P. Morgan.

[FORD]
And Henry Ford.

[MORGAN]
All men are born equal.

[FORD]
But the cream rises to the top!

[EMMA GOLDMAN]
Let me at those sosn of b**ches! These men are the
demons who are sucking your very souls dry! I hate them!

[MORGAN]
Someone should arrest that woman!

[EMMA GOLDMAN]
The radical anarchist Emma Goldman fought against the
ravages of American capitalism as she watched her fellow
immigrants' hopes turn to despair on the Lower East Side.

[EVELYN NESBIT]
La la la
La la la la
Whee!

[EMMA]
But America was watching another drama.

[EVELYN NESBIT]
Evelyn Nesbit was the most beautiful woman in America,
If she wore her hair in curls, every woman wore her hair
in curls.

[STANFORD WHITE]
Her lover was the eminent architect, Stanford White,
designer of the Pennsylvania Station on 33rd street.

[HARRY K. THAW]
Her husband, the eccentric millionaire, Harry K. Thaw,
was a violent man.

[EVELYN]
After her husband shot her lover, Evelyn became the biggest
attraction in Vaudeville since Tom Thumb.

[NEW ROCHELLE WOMEN]
La la la la la

[MEN]
Bang!

[NEW ROCHELLE WOMEN]
La la la

[MEN]
Bang!

[NEW ROCHELLE WOMEN]
La

[MEN]
Bang!

[EMMA GOLDMAN]
And although the newspapers called the shooting the
Crime of the Century, Goldman knew it was only 1906...

[ALL]
And there were ninety-four years to go!

[EMMA]
Whee!

[ALL]
And there was music playing,
Catching a nation in its prime...
Beggar and millionaire
Everyone, everywhere
Moving to the Ragtime!

[ALL]
And there was distant music
Skipping a beat, singing a dream.

[WOMEN]
La la la la

[ALL]
A strange, insistent music
Putting out heat,
Picking up steam.

[MEN]
La la la la

[ALL]
The sound of distant thunder
Suddenly starting to climb...

It was the music
Of something beginning,
An era exploding,
A century spinning
In riches and rags,
And in rhythm and rhyme.
The people called it Ragtime...
Ragtime!
Ragtime!
Ragitme!
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