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Jenny Richards Woodward, 46; O.C. Singer-Guitarist

June 08, 2005|Janet Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Jenny Richards Woodward, a singer-guitarist and songwriter who belonged to a prominent musical family in Orange County, has died. She was 46.

Jenny Richards, as she was known professionally, founded several bands, knew many Southern California musicians and occasionally sang with her father, Rusty, brother Jason and sister Amy Jo in Rusty Richards and Family.

Richards died of cancer June 1.

While she was growing up, her father sang in the Sons of the Pioneers, founded by Roy Rogers and featured in classic movie Westerns.

Richards, who later wrote about her mother's tears and pride at being married to a musician who was often on the road, decided by age 10 that it was a life she wanted as well.

"She had a passion for this, and people should do what they love. If you love what you do, you've got a blessed life," recalled her mother, Amy Richards.

Richards, who had a powerful, wide-ranging voice, sang with and opened for several groups and singers, including New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Tanya Tucker. Her compositions were performed in the Sydney Opera House and in Italy.

"I loved singing with her and playing with her; she was great to harmonize with," said Hal Ratliff, former keyboardist for the Righteous Brothers. "She had a really wide-ranging voice -- really sweet and low sometimes, and really high, almost operatic, high soprano other times.... Her best was when she did her own songs, because she seemed to put everything she had into them."

Richards wrote dozens of original songs, such as "Full Moon Drumming," based on Native American rituals she saw enacted.

A lifelong resident of Orange County's Modjeska Canyon, Richards, was a familiar sight, with her husband and small black dog, Lacy, on the canyon's roads.

She also taught local children guitar, and hosted a series of concerts in homes with area and studio musicians. She sang at churches across Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, and often volunteered for local causes.

She received degrees in music from Irvine Valley College and Chapman University.

"Her whole family was with her when she died, and she did go peacefully," said her mother.

A celebration of her life will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rancho Mission Viejo at Amante's Camp off Ortega Highway. Private burial will be at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange Park Acres.

In addition to her parents and husband, Mark Woodward, Richards is survived by three stepsons, a brother and two sisters, a grandchild, a grandmother, nieces and nephews, uncles, aunts and cousins.

The family requests that memorial donations be made in her name to the Pacific Center for Positive Living, 22600-A Lambert St., Suite 707, Lake Forest, CA 92630.

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