Folk legend 92 dies: Jean Ritchie
Published: June 3, 2015
Folk legend 92 dies: Jean Ritchie, Jean Ritchie, the Kentucky-born folksinger who brought the centuries-old ballads she grew up with to a wide audience from the 1950s onward, died Monday evening. She was 92. Ritchie died in her home in Berea with family around her, her niece Judy Hudson said.
The tall, red-haired Ritchie, who grew up in Kentucky’s Cumberland mountains, sang ballads with a clear soprano voice. She accompanied herself on the guitar, autoharp or the mountain dulcimer, a string instrument played while placed on the performer’s lap that Ritchie helped rescue from obscurity.
Among the hundreds of songs she performed were “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” ‘’Old Virginny,” ‘’One Morning in May” and “Aunt Sal’s Song.”
Hudson said Ritchie suffered a stroke several years ago and moved back to Kentucky from the East Coast.
As part of the folk music boom of the 1950s and ‘60s, she was a contemporary of such giants as Pete Seeger, Odetta and Doc Watson. She influenced a generation of younger singers such as Judy Collins and Emmylou Harris.
“I see folk music as a river that never stopped flowing,” she told The New York Times in 1980. “Sometimes a few people go to it and sometimes a lot of people do. But it’s always there.”
Johnny Cash recorded her “The L. & N. Don’t Stop Here Anymore” and Harris performed “Sweet Sorrow in the Wind.” In a 1978 Rolling Stone interview, Bob Dylan cited her as one of the folksingers he listened to, along with Woody Guthrie, Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly.
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