Magazine article Appalachian Heritage

In Memoriam: Jean Ritchie

Magazine article Appalachian Heritage

In Memoriam: Jean Ritchie

Article excerpt

I first met Jean Ritchie about seventy years ago at Brasstown, North Carolina, where I grew up and where her sisters Mae and Edna were at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Just a few years later, as a foreign-lander-soldier, I found a copy of Singing Family of the Cumberlands in the Army post library. It was a revelation to me. It was the first book I'd ever read whose author I personally knew--and it was about my own kind of people. A half century later, she and I served together on the Hindman Settlement School Board for about twenty years. She was also a member of the committee that originated and planned, and she frequently performed at the annual Celebration of Traditional Music at Berea College.

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Jean was the most traditionally authentic artist in the Folk Revival and afterwards. She didn't just sing the ancient and marvelous songs and ballads that came down through the generations of her people, along with their genes, her performances took her audiences on profound cultural trips, with the help of husband George Pickow's photographs. …

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