was an American folk music singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player. Jean Ritchie was born to Abigail (née Hall) and Balis W. Ritchie of Viper, an unincorporated community in Perry County in the Cumberland Mountains of south eastern Kentucky. The Ritchies of Perry County were one of the two "great ballad-singing families" of Kentucky celebrated among folk song scholars (the other was the Combs family of adjacent Knott County, whose repertoire formed the basis of a the first scholarly work on the British ballads in America, a doctoral thesis by Professor Josiah Combs of Berea College for the Sorbonne University published in Paris in 1925.) In 1917, the great collector Cecil Sharp collected songs from Jean's older sisters Una and May. Many of the Ritchies attended the Hindman Settlement School, a folk school, where people were encouraged to cherish their own backgrounds and where Sharp also found many of his songs. Jean's father Balis had printed up a book of old songs entitled Lovers' Melodies, and music making was an important activity in the Ritchie home.
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