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Meet Jean Ritchie

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Unless you lived through the folk music times starting in the forties, you may or may not have heard of Jean Ritchie. When I started the research for Pluck, I knew her name, but almost nothing about her.

Jean Ritchie passed away at age 92 in 2015, but she is still known as the "Mother of Folk Music" thanks to her seven decade career as a performer, songwriter, "song catcher" and teacher, all in service of sharing her love of the mountain dulcimer. Jean Ritchie appears occasionally throughout David's biography to support one of the themes of book--that "like things vibrate alike". Her amazing career is too long and rich to chronicle in just a blog post, but if you are interested in either the mountain dulcimer specifically or folk music in general, all you have to do is google, "Jean Ritchie" like I did when I began, and you'll find plenty about this marvelous woman. Dulcimer players today and in the future owe her a huge debt of gratitude as do lovers of traditional music that is still being rediscovered today by artists young enough to be Jean Ritchie's great-grandchildren.

Pluck takes note of two songs in particular of Jean's that bring to mind a connection with David Schnaufer. In Part 1, the vignette "1900 GALVESTON, TEXAS: DISASTERS OF THE NATURAL KIND" discusses the performance in the video below, Jean sings "The Mighty Day" with the New Lost City Ramblers about a hurricane that nearly destroyed Galveston, a place that was important to David growing up. The other song that I'll profile in a future blog post is Jean's famous song, "Nottamun Town".

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