Appalachian Music Legend Mary Jane Queen Dies at 93

Cullowhee (North Carolina), USA – Singer Mary Jane Queen died June 29, 2007, at her home in Cullowhee, North Carolina. She was 93. Just a few days earlier, she had been given a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship for her lifetime working, preserving Appalachian songs.

Mary Jane Queen grew up in the Appalachian region of southwestern North Carolina. Her parents’ home was a local hub of musical activity and family members sang at church and social events. In addition to learning tunes on the banjo, much of the singing repertoire that she absorbed included the old ballads and story songs sung around the house to accompany everyday work.

After raising eight children and following the passing of her husband, Claude Queen, she began singing some of these family songs at local and regional festivals, often accompanied by some of her children. Maggie Greenwald who wrote the script for the movie The Songcatcher based the character of Viney Butler on Mary Jane after a visit to her home. Butler performs Mary Jane’s signature song "I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again" in the film. 

Recently Mary Jane Queen received both the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award and the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award. Queen has recounted her experiences in her autobiography The Life and Times of Mary Jane Queen: Her Art, Her Heritage, Her Music.

Author: World Music Central News Department

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