The world’s oldest rock journalist Jane Marie Scott is dead, at the age of 92. Compared to the value of departed rock stars, the worth of a dead music writer is trifle. Alive they are worth even less. You might not know her, but alive or dead the musicians whose names you do, acknowledge their debt for her coverage and friendship. Without her kind their stories may have never been told. She covered rock and roll for forty years, never lost enthusiasm, even when Rolling Stone said she was too old. The sometime school teacher and handwriting analyst was the last person you’d expect to find backstage, she never had the looks to play it cool, but she was hip in a motherly way. Bob Dylan gave her a kiss on each cheek, Jim Morrison confided in her about his fears on religion over a beer backstage and Jimi Hendrix brought her along when he bought a blue Corvette.
“My age isn’t a handicap. There’s a certain advantage in being a mother figure.”
Jane was born 3 May 1919 in Cleveland Ohio, where she lived her whole life working for The Plain Dealer [Ohio’s largest newspaper]. On 24 March 1952 her hometown hosted the first ever rock concert, The Moondog Coronation Ball, which she regrettably missed. She would spend the next 50 years making up for it.In 1964 Jane covered the Ohio leg of The Beatles American tour. Two years later she interviewed the band, and made enough of an impression for them to invite her on their last world tour.
“Any women who will tell you her age will tell you anything.”
After the Beatles Jane stopped writing what she thought teenagers liked, and covered the music they loved. She had a knack for getting backstage, irritating several security conscious event managers along the way. She would often break the ice with a palm reading; one particularly thorough reading resulted with The Who reportedly going on late for a gig. Such was her charm.She accepted rock in all its forms. Lou Reed remembers her being the only journalist to afford him any respect before he would be celebrated as the father of punk. In a recent obituary the usually unsentimental Lou said: “A very smart, guileless lady who loved music and musicians.”
“I never plan. always take it on the fly. I’m a reporter writing about music, not a musician.”
According to Frank Zappa most rock journalism is for people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read. Indeed, to make sense of music with words is useless, academic and removes us away from the reason we love it in the first place. Jane never minced words for literary effect; she avoided the temptation to be clever, and only told the story by making good use of musicians’ own words. In the end, both the bands and fans got what they deserved. Music journalism might be considered infantile when compared to more ‘important’ forms of reporting but it speaks to the youth and if what Jane wrote didn’t matter back then, it sure does now. She spread the gospel for rock, and helped lay the tracks for its future.
Its history would have probably not been that different without her, but Jimi Hendrix may never have got his blue Corvette. You can’t teach rock and roll. It’s a life lived lost in music and in defiance of death and not knowing what’s coming next. There will never be a university, but Jane is an honouree doctor in her own right, along with Nick Kent, Caroline Coon and Creil Marcus. That old ratty-blond-hair four-eyed teenager who buzzed with vim at concerts, holding a tote bag stuffed with a camera, pens, photocopied research and peanut butter sandwiches, is gone.
“I’m not special. I’m out of sync, time sync. If I were twenty-seven, you wouldn’t write about me. But I’m committed to my work. I’m exuberant about life, energetic, enthusiastic and I have strong feelings about things…”