, , , ,

Jean Ritchie with her sons, Peter (L) and Jon Pickow

Jean Ritchie with her sons, Peter (L) and Jon Pickow

Jean Ritchie, the wonderful folksinger who was born in Appalachia and brought the dulcimer to a much wider audience, died on Monday at the age of 92.

Harp on the willow tree, now it is hung.
One man, one faith, one God, to them I clung.
Sweet were the songs of life, now they are sung.
Harp on the willow tree, now it is hung.

– Jean Ritchie (from Epitaph for Myself)
from Jon Pickow’s Facebook page

I had the pleasure of meeting Jean at a Christmas party at her home in Port Washington, Long Island.  Her son Jon had invited the entire Norman Luboff Choir.  We were on break from a tour.

Meeting Jean and being at the party was such a delightful experience, one I shall always remember.

My impression, on hearing the guests, all folksingers, share songs in turn:

Six or eight songs had been sung, and now it was Jean’s turn.  She was standing with her back to the room, washing dishes.  Had that been me, I may have asked others to sing, delaying my contribution until I had finished what I was doing.  Not Jean.  She continued washing dishes and sang beautifully!

Isn’t that wonderful? It wasn’t a show. She had no need to change a thing: she didn’t turn to face the audience, didn’t put on more makeup or change clothes. She didn’t ask for more light. There was no printed program. She just sang. Singing wasn’t something different. It’s who she was. I have always admired that.

You can find more about my impressions of the party and the wonderful folksinging guests here:

Authenticity in Performing

New York Times obituary by Margalit Fox:
Be sure to scroll down to watch a video of Jean singing “Shady Grove” while accompanying herself on the dulcimer.

from NPR:

The Wall Street Journal

Lexington (KY) Herald-Ledger editorial:
Jean Ritchie, a righteous voice of Kentucky

The Courier-Journal:

Jean Ritchie’s Induction into the Long Island Hall of Fame:

from AMP, Alternate Music Press:
includes discography and books by Jean Ritchie

from The Mudcat Café:
featuring an exhaustive list of related links

from DailyKos.com:
More videos!

Jean Ritchie’s memoir:
Singing Family of the Cumberlands

Mountain Born:  The Jean Ritchie Story
KET Teacher’s Guide

Memorial donations:

Rest in peace, Jean.  We will miss you greatly.

If your think your friends/network would find this useful, please share it with them — I would greatly appreciate it. 

Back to top