This week on From the Vault we celebrate the life of Jean Ritchie, an American folk treasure who died June 1, 2015. Born in Viper, Kentucky on December 8th, 1922, Ritchie was the youngest of fourteen children who became known as the "Singing Ritchies of Kentucky." Eventually, Jean would pack her bags and move to New York City in 1947, to begin a career as a social worker. In the course of work, she would teach traditional folk songs she knew to the children; word of her music education efforts came to the attention of folklorist and field recording collector Alan Lomax, who would record her for the Library of Congress.
Ritchie - who could sing a capella and play the mountain dulcimer and autoharp - performed alongside legends such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, as well as the underground folk masters of New York and beyond. Her creative efforts not only popularized the Appalachian folk tradition, but also raised awareness of the hazards of strip mining and coal mining in her beloved mountains of Kentucky.
In this 1978 interview on Pacifica Station WBAI in New York City, Ritchie sat down to sing and chat with producer Lynn Schoenfeld about music, family,and life in her home town.
From the Vault is presented as part of the Pacifica Radio Archives Preservation and Access Project, funded in part by an award from the GRAMMY Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives and Records Administration, and past grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the American Archive funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with the generous support of Pacifica Radio Listeners. We also thank our partners and collaborators at the Pop-Up Archive, Amara, Other Minds Archives, George Blood Audio, and the California Audio Visual Preservation Project.