Archives of Legendary Northeast Ohio Music Journalist Jane Scott Being Put Online

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A chapter of Rock and Roll history is being preserved with the help of a grant from the state of Ohio.  The archives of Plain Dealer music writer Jane Scott are being organized and digitized. ideastream’s David C. Barnett reports on the legacy of a music journalism pioneer.

On a cold and rainy February afternoon in 2005, Ohio University graduate student Elizabeth Weinstein tentatively approached the apartment of the legendary Jane Scott.

ELIZABETH WEINSTEIN: I was so nervous, I had been reading so much about her and I was kind of intimidated.

Weinstein was researching her master’s thesis on women in rock journalism and Jane Scott was ground zero.  She had covered the rock and roll music beat for half a century and, by some accounts, was the first person to do so --- man or woman.  But, Weinstein says all feelings of trepidation vanished when the 86-year-old Scott answered the door.  It was more like being greeted by your grandmother.

ELIZABETH WEINSTEIN: She served me some sort of custard pie, and gave me orange juice, because it was "good" for me.  One of the first things she said to me was, please excuse the mess.  Her apartment was just this museum of rock and roll history. 

That history was transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives after Scott’s death in 2011.  Archivist Andy Leach says there’s a lot to sort through.

ANDY LEACH:  We have about 40 boxes of Jane’s materials, ranging from her notebooks, photos, correspondence, we have her record collection, her book collection and magazine collection.

Many of these materials will be digitized and put online later this year, thanks to a Ohio History Fund grant received earlier, this month. Researchers can use the collection to get insights on different performers, and to put dates on important events.  In addition to that sort of hard documentation, there are many items that reveal the personal connections Scott developed with several generations of musicians

ANDY LEACH: We have an autographed LP of Keith Richards, signed by Keith, inscribed “To Jane, Love Keith”.  There are photos of Jane with Bruce Springsteen, and with Lyle Lovett, and with David Bowie.  Even some of the toughest figures in Rock and Roll like Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, they all loved her.

JANE SCOTT: I’m eclectic --- I like Frank Zappa, I like Grateful Dead.  I feel that I owe it to everyone to like --- not like, but try to understand --- all types of music, even punk, which I don’t really like, but I give them a shot, because I feel that it’s part of the picture

Jane Scott started her music writing career in her mid-40s, when she was more than twice as old as many of the acts that she covered.  In this 1978 TV interview, she said she was always open to new musical ideas.

JANE SCOTT: It probably would have been very hard to start if I had not kept up with music all through the years, but I never gave up.

Years before becoming her colleague at the Plain Dealer in 1998, John Soeder was a devotee of Scott’s Friday Magazine column and Sunday feature articles as a kid.  Working with her on the music beat, Soeder says he saw firsthand how Scott connected with her readers.

JOHN SOEDER:  She didn’t feel her opinion was necessarily any more or less valid than the next person’s --- which is why she often interviewed other people at the shows and included their remarks in the reviews.  I guess we’d call it crowd-sourcing today, but she was doing it before we used the term.

Jane Scott takes up an entire chapter in Elizabeth Weinstein’s Master’s thesis, “Out of the Shadows: Breaking the Gender Barrier in Rock Journalism.  Weinstein thinks Scott needs to be brought from out from behind those shadows

ELIZABETH WEINSTEIN: She didn’t just sit behind a typewriter and kind of come up with theories to make sense of Rock and Roll.  She lived it, she wrote about her experiences, and often she wrote from the perspective of a fan or an audience member, and I think that she was relatable in a way that a lot of critics can only dream of.

And now, future generations of researchers can comb through the notes and letters and pictures of Jane Scott’s five-decade career to find further insights about the history of rock and roll as it was happening.  

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