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28 April 1937|
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
|Died||21 August 2014
Redpath was born in Edinburgh to musical parents. Her mother knew many Scots songs and passed them on to Jean and her brother; her father played the hammered dulcimer. She was raised in Leven, Fife, Scotland, and later returned to Edinburgh, taking medieval studies at the university. To help pay her way through her studies, she worked as a driving instructor and undertaker's assistant.
The Scottish poet and folk-song collector Hamish Henderson was working in the School of Scottish Studies at the university and Redpath took a keen interest in the archive of tapes and discs of music and songs. She learned about 400 songs, together with the oral folklore that went with them. In March 1961, at the age of 24, she went to the United States. Her first performance was in San Francisco. Later she met up with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village. The natural warmth and power of her voice brought her to perform at Gerde's Folk City. In 1963, following a concert performance, she signed up with Elektra Records. In 1975 she switched to the Philo label. From 1972 to 1976 Jean was artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She lectured in folklore and gave talks in schools.
In 1976 Redpath embarked on a project to record all the songs of Robert Burns, some being folk songs, some Burns's own compositions, and most a mixture of the two. Twenty-two volumes were planned, but when her collaborator, the composer Serge Hovey, died after seven volumes, the project came to a premature end. Hovey had done the instrumental arrangements for 323 songs, and Redpath felt no other musician could replace him. The albums won critical praise from around the world. In 1986 she recorded Lady Nairne, a collection of songs written by Scottish women. Redpath sensitively reconstructed songs that might otherwise have been lost. Between 1974 and 1987, Redpath appeared regularly on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" APM radio show. She also appeared on Robert J. Lurtsema's "Morning pro musica" broadcast from WGBH in Boston.
Redpath toured throughout the U.S. and Canada, played venues in South America, Hong Kong, and Australia, including the Sydney Opera House, and performed often at the Edinburgh Folk Festival. In 1977, Royal Jubilee Year, Redpath appeared at a royal banquet at Edinburgh Castle for Queen Elizabeth II.
Starting in 1979, Redpath was a lecturer at the University of Stirling, Scotland, with occasional trips to teach at Wesleyan University. She gave courses for ten years in Scottish Song at the Heritage of Scotland Summer School at the University of Stirling.
She was awarded the MBE, as well as being named a Kentucky colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. A portrait of Redpath by Alexander Fraser[disambiguation needed] hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. In 1996 she launched the Burns International Festival.
In 2009, Redpath made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, singing "Some Kind of Love" by the late John Stewart of the Kingston Trio. Letterman promoted her album By Request during her appearance, although the song "Some Kind of Love" does not appear on that album. This led to some confusion for viewers who wished to obtain a recorded version of the song.
- Skipping Barefoot Through the Heather (1962)
- Scottish Ballad Book (1962)
- Laddie Lie Near Me (1963)
- Lilt and Laughter (1963)
- Frae My Ain Countrie (1973)
- Jean Redpath (1975)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 1 (1976)
- Song of the Seals (1978)
- Father Adam (1979)
- Lowlands (1980)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 2 (1980)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 3 (1981)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 4 (1981)
- Haydn: Scottish Songs (1984)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 5 (1985)
- The Scottish Fiddle (1985)
- Lady Nairne (1986)
- A Fine Song For Singing (1987)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 6 (1987)
- First Flight (1989)
- Songs of Robert Burns vol 7 (1990)
- Leaving the Land (1990)
- The Moon's Silver Cradle (1996)