Jon Pickow, folk performer, Port native, dies at 62

Jon Pickow, a Port-raised musician and performer best known for his work in the folk genre, has died. (Photo courtesy of the Pickow family)

Jonathan “Jon” Pickow, a musician and singer raised in Port Washington and best known for his work in the folk genre, has died at 62.

Pickow died on Dec. 6 near his home in Viper, Kentucky, following a battle with leukemia, the World Folk Music Association said in a statement.

Born in Brooklyn in 1958, Pickow was the son of George Pickow, a photographer, and Jean Ritchie, an Appalachian-born singer-songwriter often recognized as the “mother of folk” in America. Pickow was raised in Port with his brother Peter and graduated from Schreiber High School in 1976.

His career as a performer began at an early age as he appeared with his mother at concerts and folk festivals throughout the country, including the Newport Folk Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Mariposa Festival in Toronto and Carnegie Hall. Pickow eventually produced and performed vocals, banjo and mountain dulcimer on several of Ritchie’s later albums.

Outside of his work with his mother, Pickow was a member of the Düsing Singers for several decades and contributed several arrangements to the group’s repertoire. He also  taught at the Swannanoa Gathering, Kentucky Music Week and Christmas Country Dance School at Berea College.

In addition to performing, Pickow worked in production for Canadian-American folk singer Oscar Brand, a friend and contemporary of Ritchie, on his weekly radio program “Folksong Festival” for WNYC (AM 820) in New York. He also performed on Brand’s albums and radio shows and appeared in his staged productions at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, where he shared the stage with Judy Collins, Theo Bikel, Odetta, Christine Lavin, Josh White Jr. and Tovah Feldshuh. He worked with Brand until his death in 2016.

In 2016, a year after his mother’s death, Pickow presented the second annual Jean Ritchie Lecture at the National University of Ireland at Galway, during which he met Irish President Michael D. Higgins. Most recently, Pickow was a featured performer at the Great American Dulcimer Festival and Kentucky Music Weekend.

Pickow was predeceased by his father in 2010 and his mother in 2015, and is survived by his brother Peter of Sherman, Connecticut, as well as many cousins. He was interred by Engle Bowling Funeral Home at a small, private family gathering in the Hall Cemetery in Viper, Kentucky, where he was buried beside his parents.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any interested parties send a donation in Pickow’s memory to the Appalachian Artisan Center, PO Box 833, Hindman, KY 41822.

About the author

Rose Weldon

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