Clerihew of the Week

By John Hertz:

Jean Ritchie
Had a Phi Beta Kappa key.
She sounded so real
Because think can go with feel.

G.K. Chesterton dedicated The Man Who Was Thursday to Edmund Clerihew Bentley, eponym of this verse form. Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) was born in the same year as Hal Clement and Ali Akbar Khan. She died on June 1st at age 92. She may not have been of direct SF interest but she was a good candidate for Best Related Work.

She sang in Greenwich Village coffee houses and for the Smithsonian Institution and at the Royal Albert Hall and on A Prairie Home Companion. With her husband George Pickow she lit and fueled the plucked-dulcimer revival.

She was reared with songs, she collected songs, she wrote songs. On a Fulbright Scholarship she studied songs in England, Scotland, and Ireland, ancestors of Appalachia. Cecil Sharp had collected songs from her older sisters.

She came to national attention in the 1940s. Filksinging, our home-made music, got its name in the 1950s. Wasn’t that a time!

Joan Baez called her the mother of folk. The San Francisco Weekly called her the Voice of America. Alan Lomax said “There is no one else in her category.” The New York Times with its usual grasp of the right word said she while a social worker calmed urban children with songs “so alien as to stun her young charges into submission.”

She made thirty-three records; the twentieth was with Doc Watson; the twenty-fifth won a Rolling Stone Critics Award; after people kept asking her which one had the most dulcimer she made that the name of the twenty-ninth. She published nine books. Her Singing Family of the Cumberlands was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. She was PBK at the University of Kentucky. Her voice was crystal.

One more note about a fine musician who just died.

His name “B.B. King”
Was an accidental thing.
Who could stand in his shoes?
He taught the Rolling Stones to gather blues.

One thought on “Clerihew of the Week

  1. Jean Ritchie’s death was followed a few days later by more sad news.

    Ronnie Gilbert
    Never lived in a yurt.
    She was the only female member of The Weavers,
    Folksingers and true social justice believers.

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