Appalachian folk singer Jean Ritchie passes away

American folk singer and Appalachian, Jean Ritchie, passed away on June 1, 2015 in Berea, Ky. She was an author, performer, folk music collector, and loved by many for her historical preservation of the Appalachian culture.

Jean Ritchie was born in December 8, 1922 in Viper, Kentucky.  Ritchie was the youngest of 12 children to Abigail and Balis Ritchie.  She attended Cumberland Junior College in Williamsburg, before graduating from the University of Kentucky.

Ritchie was well known for her folk singing, as well as playing the dulcimer. Her musical style led her to performances on radio and television, as well as playing at major folk festivals.  She was a regular at Woodsongs Ole Time Radio Hour, based out of Lexington, Kentucky.

In 1977, Rolling Stone presented her with a Critics’ Award for her album, None But One.  Alan Lomax recorded her for the Library of Congress.  In 1955, she wrote a book about her family called, Singing Family of the Cumberlands.  Ritchie’s composition, My Dear Companion was recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton in 1987.  In 2002, Ritchie received the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

Jean Ritchie is a member of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Long Island Music Hall of Fame.  The Smithsonian Insitute considered her, “a national treasure, one of America’s finest and best known traditional singers.”

In her personal life, she married George Pickow and they had two sons, Peter and Jonathan.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial donations be sent to Appalachian Voices. Appalachian Voices is an award-winning, environmental non-profit committed to protecting the land, air and water of the central and southern Appalachian region, focusing on reducing coal’s impact on the region and advancing our vision for a cleaner energy future. 

Jean Ritchie Albums

  • Traditional Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family (1952)
  • Kentucky Mountains Songs (1954)
  • Field Trip (1954)
  • Courting Songs (1954)
  • Shivaree (1955)
  • The Singing Family of the Cumberlands (1955)
  • Children’s Songs & Games from the Southern Mountains (1956)
  • Songs from Kentucky (1956)
  • American Folk Tales and Songs (1956)
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Too (1956)
  • The Ritchie Family of Kentucky (1958)
  • Riddle Me This (1959) (with Oscar Brand)
  • Carols for All Seasons (1959)
  • British Traditional Ballads, Vol 1 (1961)
  • British Traditional Ballads, Vol 2 (1961)
  • Ballads (2003; vol 1 and 2 above, issued on a single CD)
  • Ballads from Her Appalachian Family Tradition (1961)
  • Precious Memories (1962)
  • The Appalachian Dulcimer: An Instructional Record (1963)
  • Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson Live at Folk City (1963)
  • Time For Singing (1966)
  • Marching Across the Green Grass & Other American Children’s Game Songs (1968)
  • Clear Waters Remembered (1974)
  • Jean Ritchie At Home (1974)
  • None But One (1977)
  • Christmas Revels. Wassail! Wassail! (1982)
  • O Love Is Teasin’ (1985)
  • Kentucky Christmas, Old and New (1987)
  • The Most Dulcimer (1992)
  • Mountain Born (1995)
  • High Hills and Mountains (1996)
  • Childhood Songs (1997)
  • Legends of Old time Music (2002, DVD)