Jean Ritchie

Voice of Appalachia

Jean Ritchie (1922–2015) was one of America’s finest and most beloved traditional singers, considered a national treasure for her work in preserving folkways. The eastern Kentucky coal country where she was raised proved creative fodder for composing such songs as “Blue Diamond Mines,” “Black Waters,” and “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” Ritchie is in large part responsible for the revival and popularization of the Appalachian dulcimer, which she often used to accompany her songs.

Jean Ritchie Celebration of Life: Her Songs…her poems

Object Details

publishing date
Ritchie, Jean
Geordie Music Publishing, Inc.

Jean Ritchie Celebration of Life: Her Songs…her poems (New York: Geordie Music Publishing, Inc., 1971). The book features original music and arrangements by Jean Ritchie and photographs by her husband George Pickow.

Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) became known as "The Mother of Folk" for her contributions to American folk music. She was instrumental in introducing the dulcimer to a wider audience as well as making dulcimers with her husband George Pickow (the maker of the "Wedding" dulcimer, Cat. #2015.0234.01).

In 1952, Jean Ritchie received a Fulbright scholarship to research folk songs and music that originated in Britain and Ireland, which subsequently made their way to the United States. Ritchie performed these songs in concerts throughout England and included some of the songs in her recording Field Trip, in 1954. After Jean Ritchie's return to the United States, she continued to perform and record. In 1959, she performed at the first Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Jean Ritchie recorded over 30 albums and authored 7 books throughout her career. In 1977, she received the Rolling Stone Magazine Critics award for her album None But One.

In 2002, Jean Ritchie received a National Endowment for the Arts heritage fellowship. She continued to perform until 2009, when she suffered a stroke. A tribute album, Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie was released in 2014 and featured musicians Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, and Kathie Mattea.

Currently not on view
place made
United States: New York, New York
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Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Credit Line
Gift of Nancy B. Hoffman and Elliot L. Hoffman
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 12 in x 9 in x 3/8 in; 30.48 cm x 22.86 cm x .9525 cm
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