Born to musical parents in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1937 and influenced by Hamish Henderson’s recordings of traditional Scots tunes she heard while at the University of Edinburgh, Redpath embarked on a lifelong career in music when she left for San Francisco in March of 1961. From there, she travelled to Greenwich Village, where she soon gained the respect of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan. Redpath never looked back, spending the rest of her life touring and recording.
During her lifetime, Redpath recorded more than 40 albums featuring Scottish folksongs and ballads, many of them songs collected and written by Robert Burns. Redpath was also celebrated for her ability to engage and entertain live audiences, spending much of her time performing across the United States and Europe. During her decades-spanning career, she made several appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and was a frequent performer at various Robert Burns Societies and celebrations including here at the University of South Carolina.
Throughout her career she received recognition for her talents in numerous ways. She served as artist in residence at both Wesleyan and Stirling University, was awarded several honorary doctorates, as well as being appointed both a Kentucky Colonel and, in 1987, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
The archive contains material of both personal and professional interest spanning her lifetime. Personal items include photographs and letters from friends and family, a brief series of journal entries, and vacation itineraries and mementos. There is also information related to her genealogy, including documents related to the 1891 painting The Ordination of Elders in a Scottish Kirk which included her grandmother as a young girl. Redpath’s interests outside of music are further highlighted by her collection of recipes, humorous cartoons, a collection of postcards and Scottish-themed bumper stickers, and records of psychic readings she had done.
Material related to her professional career occupies the larger portion of this collection including recording and performance contracts, financial records, fan mail, and performance notes. Several collections of Scottish folk song lyrics, indexed by Redpath, are also included, along with listings of her recorded material. One series is dedicated to her later work with Serge Hovey, an undertaking especially dear to her. This series includes an interview transcript and material related to several of their Burns recordings. Of particular interest is the Manuscript series, as it contains several versions of an unpublished manuscript of traditional Scottish folksongs (Scottish Songs: A Personal Collection) selected by Redpath. The manuscript versions contain her reflections and notes on these particular songs and why they were chosen, as well as photographs she selected to accompany them. The Oversized series contains a 2003 proof copy of the manuscript as well as copies of a concert poster entitled Jean Redpath Sings: 50 years.
When Redpath passed away in 2014, she bequeathed her music rights to USC Libraries, which receives the proceeds of the sale of her music. CDs and digital downloads of her music can be purchased from CD Baby.