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Jean Ritchie Dies: Kentucky Folk Legend Influenced Bob Dylan

By    |   Wednesday, 03 Jun 2015 09:03 AM

Jean Ritchie, the Kentucky-born musician credited with the ushering in the revival of folk music during the 1950s and 1960s, died at 92 at her home in Berea, Kentucky.

Ritchie, who grew up in the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky, carried family songs and melodies with her to New York City where she was discovered by Alan Lomax, according to the Washington Post. Lomax, a folklorist, had previously introduced performers like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly to larger groups of listeners.

Legendary singer Bob Dylan was influenced by Ritchie's old folk songs and her original creations like "Black Waters," "Blue Diamond Mines," and "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore," noted the Post. The latter song was covered by the late country icon Johnny Cash.

"Songs that carried the tradition from England and Scotland and Ireland into the United States and into the mountains and very much shaped American music," Grammy-nominated folk singer Dan Schatz told National Public Radio about Ritchie. "I think Joan Baez called her the mother of folk. She didn't care who you were or how famous you were or what style of music you were making. She was unfailingly warm and encouraging."

Ritchie graduated from the University of Kentucky and was a Fulbright scholar who originally moved to New York to become a social worker before she was discovered for her folk music. Ritchie had taught some of the songs she learned from her family to children at the Henry Street Settlement where she worked when she was brought to the attention of Lomax, noted NPR.

The Post said Ritchie would write about her folk music heritage in numerous books, including the "Singing Family of the Cumberlands" in 1955.

"It was always a wonder to me how families living close to one another could sing the same song and sing it so different," Ritchie wrote in her memoir. "Or how one family would sing a song among themselves for years, and their neighbor family never knew that song at all. Most curious of all was how one member of a family living in a certain community could have almost a completely different set of songs than his cousins living a few miles away."

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Jean Ritchie, the Kentucky-born musician credited with the ushering in the revival of folk music during the 1950s and 1960s, died at 92 at her home in Berea, Kentucky.
jean ritchie, dies, kentucky, folk, legend
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2015-03-03
Wednesday, 03 Jun 2015 09:03 AM
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