Folk Singer-Songwriter Jean Ritchie Dies at 92
Singer-songwriter and dulcimer player Jean Ritchie -- known for helping ignite the folk revival of the ‘50s and ‘60s -- has died at age 92. She passed at her home in Berea, Ky., on Monday, June 1.
Ritchie was born in Viper, Ky., in 1922 to Abigail and Balis Ritchie. The youngest of 14 children, Ritchie grew up surrounded by traditional folk music in part rooted in her Appalachian origins.
Ritchie attended the University of Kentucky, where she graduated in 1946 and received a Bachelor’s in social work. From there, she moved to New York, becoming a regular performer at coffeehouses across the city.
Musicologist Alan Lomax began recording Ritchie for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Folk Song in the late ‘40s. In 1952, Ritchie received a Fullbright Scholarship, which took her to Great Britain to study its connection and role in American folk music.
Over the course of her career, Ritchie recorded more than 30 albums, the first of which was 1952's Jean Ritchie Singing the Traditional Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family. She shared the stage with the likes of Pete Seeger, Doc Watson and more. The iconic folk singer also helped inspire renewed interest in the dulcimer, propelled by a manufacturing business she and her husband George Pickow ran for a time in Brooklyn.
Ritchie became a mainstay at the Newport Folk Festival and Kentucky Music Weekend in Louisville over the years, performing at the former’s inaugural year. The latter will host its final installment this year, which will be dedicated to Ritchie’s memory.
The staff at Diffuser would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Jean Ritchie.