Jean Redpath was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and raised in the Kingdom of Fife. She attended the University of Edinburgh to major in medieval studies but soon discovered the School of Scottish Studies there. The School collects and preserves the oral traditions of Scotland; its research facilities include a major archive of tapes and disks recording the instrumental music, tales, ballads and songs of both Scots- and Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland.
Jean has also devoted a large portion of her professional life to the songs of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns. Her work with the late Serge Hovey, who researched and arranged 323 of Burns' songs has produced seven recordings which have won critical acclaim. Four more recordings made originally in Scotland by Scottish Records are sung mostly a capella. These were produced in collaboration with Dr Donald Low of Stirling University and bring Jean's recorded repertoire of Burns's songs up to 180.
She has received many honors for her work, including honorary doctorates from the University of Stirling and St Andrews University, and from the Royal Scottish Academy of Drama and Art. In 1977, Jean was one of only four peformers commanded to appear by Queen Elizabeth at the royal banquet at Edinburgh Castle during the Royal Jubilee Year. Ten years later her name appeared on the Queen's Birthday Honors List and she was invited to Buckingham Palace to be awarded an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire).
"Jean Redpath possesses a mezzo soprano that most classically trained art singers might envy, and there is no one who interprets the Scottish tradition more beautifully or with more affection. "
The New York Times
"The finest voice in Scottish song. "
The Scotsman, July 1997