Thursday, 24 May 2018

Mimi & Richard Fariña “Memories” 1968 US Psych Folk,Folk Rock

Mimi & Richard Fariña “Memories” 1968 US Psych Folk,Folk Rock
full vk

Cover photo by Jim Marshall

Vanguard waffled for a year or two in deciding whether to release a Mimi Fariña solo album, or a Richard Fariña tribute album. They began recording a Mimi album with her back-up band of the time, The Only Alternative and his Other Possibilities. For whatever reason, this project was abandoned, and in their Fall 1968 catalog Vanguard advertised a forthcoming Richard Fariña album. What finally appeared was Memories, a collection of assorted leftovers with two of the Mimi solo tracks. Despite the seemingly hodge-podge format, all the material is great, worthy of standing beside the first two albums the Fariñas made. There were few notes to explain the date or origin of any of the songs, so I will do my best to provide some explanation in blue alongside what was printed on the album: 
Richard & Mimi Fariña accompanying themselves on dulcimer and guitar 
Assisted by various instrumentalists, with two songs sung by Joan Baez….~

A posthumous collection of odds and ends, this actually holds considerable appeal for anyone who likes their pair of fully realized albums. The 12 songs include a few studio outtakes, a few solo turns by Mimi on compositions written by Richard but incompletely recorded at the time of his death, a couple performances from the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, and a couple of Joan Baez tracks from sessions for an aborted album Richard was producing with her. These leftovers are generally up to the standard of the two “real” albums, especially “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood” (covered by Fairport Convention) and “Morgan the Pirate” (a farewell to Bob Dylan, according to the sketchy liner notes). The two cuts by Baez (which Richard wrote or co-wrote), especially the compellingly melancholy “All The World Has Gone By,” are excellent, leading one to wonder if the projected album they came from would have been one of Baez’s best if it had been completed. These may be leftovers, but it’s a worthwhile collection nonetheless. 

This album is one of those very few works that truly points towards what might have been had tragedy not struck. Richard and Mimi Fariña had defined a very particular place for themselves by the middle of the sixties: they had released two critically acclaimed and highly influential albums in “Celebrations For A Grey Day” and “Reflections In A Crystal Wind” (both 1965) and Richard’s novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me had just been published in 1966. However Richard was to die in a motorcycle accident right after the launch party for this novel, never knowing how it would quickly become a cult success and remain in print for decades afterwards. 

It is the musical legacy that we are concerned with here, and there can be no doubt that Richard and Mimi were trail-blazers as they were in the absolute vanguard of what became known as folk-rock, and we talk here not of the pop version of the Turtles, Grass Roots and PF Sloan, but of the highly intelligent re-invention of traditional folk music into new forms that would eventually lead to far better-known albums like Fairport Convention’s “Liege And Lief”. Indeed Richard and Mimi’s albums were amongst a select few in play rotation at Fairport (the house) in the early months of 1967. 

After the first two albums, this one was a posthumous release in 1968, and culled tracks from some differing sources. There are some session out-takes, and some that could be called works-in-progress, and there are two live tracks taken from the pair’s successful appearance at the 1965 Newport folk Festival. There are also two Richard Fariña productions of Joan Baez (Mimi’s big sister) taking lead vocal on ‘A Swallow Song’ and ‘All The World Has Gone By’. The album begins with Mimi’s achingly beautiful rendition of ‘The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’, associated later by many with Sandy Denny, and these Fairport family connections continue with the inclusion of the a capella ‘Blood Red Roses’ and ‘House Un-American Blues Activity Dream’ which were both reworked later by Ian Matthews. But such links should not take away from the beauty of the original works, as this was an album that proved how exciting their direction could have been with most of the songs written by Richard. Even with an instrumental, ‘Lemonade Lady’, that Richard plays on the dulcimer in an attacking and radical style far removed from the instrument’s usual delicacy, there is music here that caught many ears in the sixties and continues to do so in the new century. One song that thrusts forward even more that the others is ‘Morgan The Pirate’, which is apparently Richard’s ‘farewell to Dylan’. Its structure and attacking framework is arguably the most interesting new direction that the pair could have followed, and could have certainly led them towards further and heavier electrification. With every track here fascinating, it is a release that can lead new listeners to more investigation of their small but incredibly rich catalogue. ….~

Like most posthumous albums, this one is a mixed bag. The first song, “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood”, is performed solo by Mimi, with an Eastern-sounding drone accompaniment. According to the liner notes, it was one of Richard’s first compositions; the tune is from the traditional Irish melody “My Lagan Love”, and the lyrics lament humanity’s despoiling of nature. The next five tracks are Richard and Mimi – presumably either studio outtakes or material intended for their next album. They follow the same general lines as the two albums released during Richard’s lifetime, and suggest that his singing voice, previously a bit uneven, was developing well. “Joy 'Round My Brain” is uptempo folk-rock with a bit of a gospel influence in the sound, and rather surrealistic lyrics in the style popular at the time, possibly suggesting acid visions (“the hummingbirds were flying upside down… the congressmen were tearing off their clothes”). “Lemonade Lady” is a sparse field holler; “Downtown” is an Appalachian-sounding instrumental similar to those that appeared on the first two albums; “Almond Joy” is more folk-rock with a light bluesy touch; and “Blood Red Roses”, although credited to Richard, is in fact a traditional sea shanty with somewhat altered lyrics. They perform it a cappella and it is riveting. The final track on side A, “Morgan the Pirate”, is Mimi solo again, this time with instrumental backing that approaches garage-psychedelia. The liner notes say that it is Richard’s last song, and also that it’s a “farewell to Bob Dylan”, which raises interesting questions… did Richard feel that Bob was stealing ideas, and telling him to take a hike? Mimi’s double-tracked vocal, while kind of interesting, unfortunately doesn’t really suit the material here. Side B starts with two live tracks from the 1965 Newport Folk Festival: “Dopico/Celebration for a Grey Day” and “House Un-American Blues Activity Dream”, both of which appeared (in studio versions) on the first two albums. Next come two Richard Farina compositions from a proposed Joan Baez album that Richard was producing – “A Swallow Song”, the original of which appeared on “Reflections in a Crystal Wind”, and “All the World Has Gone By”, not previously recorded. Joan does a marvelous job with the former; the latter is fine, but doesn’t stand out as much. The album ends, poignantly, with an alternate version of “Pack Up Your Sorrows” (from “Celebrations for a Grey Day”), Richard’s most well-known song….by….fatpidgeon ….~

Richard Farina is much more well known now as a novelist and poet than he is as a musician. Born in 1937 to a Cuban father and Irish mother, he spent various parts of his youth in Brooklyn, Cuba, and Ireland. His life prior to the 1960s is still the matter of some mystery, but it’s believed that he spent time in Ireland in the 1950s working with the Irish Republican Army and also time in Cuba as that country was undergoing revolution. He attended Cornell University in the late ’50s where his experiences would form a foundation for his novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like up to Me, and where he became friends with future major American author Thomas Pynchon. In 1960 he was working in New York as an advertising copywriter, a job that ended upon his marriage to noted folk singer Carolyn Hester. 

Farina was already a writer of short stories and poetry, which he would have published in numerous magazines over the next half-dozen years. However, he became interested in performing music as well after marrying Hester who helped teach him to play dulcimer. The couple lived in England for a while in the early ’60s, sometimes playing together before their marriage dissolved. Through Hester, however, Farina had already met Bob Dylan (who got signed to Columbia partly as a result of his appearance as a harmonica player on a 1961 Hester session). While in England in January 1963, Farina made his first recordings, as part of a duo with fellow folksinger Eric Von Schmidt; Dylan helped out with some harmonica and backup vocals. The tracks — ordinary folk revival fare with little hint of the talent unveiled on Farina’s later recordings, save for his dulcimer playing — were not issued until 1967 on the little-known British LP Dick Farina and Eric Von Schmidt on which Dylan is credited under the pseudonym Blind Boy Grunt. 

The most important thing that happened to Farina in Europe, however, was meeting Mimi Baez, sister of folk star Joan Baez. Mimi was born Margarita Mimi Baez on April 30, 1945, in Palo Alto, California. She was the third daughter of Mexican immigrant Albert Baez and Scottish immigrant Joan Bridge. Her parents ran a boarding house while her father was studying for his doctorate in physics at Stanford University, and the family was a nomadic one as he pursued his career. 

In 1958, as Farina’s father started a new job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the family settled into the Cambridge suburb of Belmont and Farina enrolled in Belmont High School. Folk music was becoming fashionable in the college coffeehouses, and the younger Baez sisters took up guitar and became immersed in the scene. They often performed as a duo, but it was clear that Joan was the rising star. The London Times quoted Farina’s recollection of the time as, “It was really Joanie’s show. She let me be part of it which was really very nice of her. But I knew she didn’t really want anybody else up there.” And, in truth, Baez’s career took off in short order: By 1959 she was singing at the Newport Folk Festival, and a year later her first album was released by Vanguard. Farina, still in high school, remained on the sidelines. 

In 1961 Farina’s father accepted a position with UNESCO in Paris, taking his wife and Mimi (the only one still at home) with him. At this point, Farina had all but abandoned formal education, continuing instead to focus on dance and music. Then in 1962 she met aspiring novelist and folk singer Richard Farina. He was married at the time, and eight years her senior, much to the disapproval of her parents, but the pair soon became a couple. They secretly married in Paris in 1963, as was disclosed in the liner notes of their first album together, and then had an official ceremony in California later that year with up-and-coming novelist Thomas Pynchon in attendance as best man. Although still a teenager, Farina had discovered the love of her life. 

Richard and Mimi returned in 1963 to the States where they began to play as a duo, concentrating on original material written by Richard. Signed to Vanguard, they made two uneven but generally fine and innovative early folk-rock LPs in 1965, presenting an eclectic range of dulcimer-guitar instrumentals, poetic electric rock, and sad harmonized ballads. Around this time, Richard Farina also did three solo tracks on which Mimi Farina did not participate. These are found on the Elektra compilation album Singer Songwriter Project and include two songs that Farina also recorded with his wife for Vanguard (“Bold Marauder” and “House Un-American Blues Activity Dream”). The third, “Birmingham Sunday,” was never done by Richard & Mimi Farina, although Joan Baez recorded it for her album 5. There were, in fact, plans for Farina to produce a Joan Baez album, and although this never happened, a couple of Baez tracks he did produce were released on the posthumous Richard & Mimi Farina compilation Memories. 

In April 1966, the novel that Farina had been working on for years, Been Down So Long It Looks Like up to Me, was published. Just hours after a publication party, he was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Carmel, CA, leaving his considerable potential — as a musician in his partnership with Mimi Farina and as a writer — unfulfilled. Mimi Farina died of lung cancer at age 56 in 2001. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide….~

Margarita Mimi Baez Fariña 

Margarita Mimi Baez was born in Palo Alto, California on April 30, 1945, the third daughter of Albert and Joan Bridge Baez. The oldest daughter, Pauline, was six years older than Mimi, and Joan was four years older than Mimi. Both parents were first-generation immigrants, her father coming from Mexico and her mother from Scotland. The family moved frequently while Albert pursued a career in physics, first as a graduate student then as a professor. They ran a boarding house for two years while Albert studied at Stanford, then they moved to Redlands when he took a job as a teaching assistant there. 

In 1949 Albert accepted his first professional post as an experimental physicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The family moved across the country to the small town of Clarence Center, halfway between Ithaca and Buffalo. It was here that Mrs. Baez introduced the family to the Quaker religion and they began attending meetings at the Religious Society of Friends. Mrs. Baez had no great faith in organized religion, having attended a Quaker school in her childhood, she felt that their ethical teachings, specifically their abnegation of violence, would help guide Albert’s struggle with the moral dilemmas of his chosen field as the United States began developing nuclear weapons. 

In 1951 Unesco offered Albert a one-year position in Baghdad teaching physics, building a laboratory, and initiating research. Off they went to the land of a Thousand and One Nights. Their year in Baghdad proved to be an unforgettable ordeal of squalor and poverty and unbearable heat. It was a trial for the entire family but was particularly traumatic for Mimi, who was only six at the time. She was placed in a one-room school of the Catholic Convent with Pauline (Joan was sick with hepatitis and did not have to attend) and was expected to perform at the level of the older children. Although she learned to speak Arabic on her own, she had not yet learned to read and write in English. She was humiliated by a cruel teacher named Sister Rose, who, Albert Baez believes, choked the joy of reading out of Mimi. It was an immense relief when his year-long assignment ended the family moved back to California, though years later they would all agree that the experience had a profound impact on their lives. 

Mrs. Baez compensated for their frequent moving and irregular education by making sure that, no matter where they lived, Mimi was always connected to creativity through music or dance lessons. Mimi’s earliest enthusiasm was for dancing. “She learned to dance almost before she learned to walk,” Joan recalled. All three Baez sisters learned instruments as children. Joan and Pauline took up the ukelele and Mimi played violin. 

“I was good at the violin and I was a good dancer and I knew it….Which was such a relief from feeling incompetent. When I danced or played music I could be who I really was.” 
After Joan graduated high school in 1958, Albert took a position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, so the family moved east again and settled in Belmont, a suburb near Cambridge. Pauline was already on the east coast attending Drew University in New Jersey. Mimi entered Belmont High School, and Joan enrolled in Boston University’s School of Drama, where she met Debbie Green. Debbie was an accomplished guitarist and performed at the Cafe Yana once a week for five dollars. She taught both Joan and Mimi, who had each dropped their old instruments for the guitar. Both sisters began to explore the collegiate coffeehouse scene, where the Folk Music Revival was brewing, and befriended Eric von Schmidt, John Cooke, Geno Foreman, and other legends in the making. 

Mimi recalled in Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, a collective memoir of the Cambridge folk scene, 
“I know precisely the moment when I got drawn into wanting to play folk music. I was thirteen. I got a call from Joanie who was at Harvard Square. I was at home and she said, 'Get on a bus and get down here. There’s a group here I know you’ll enjoy.’ It was the Charles River Valley Boys at Lowell House in one of their first times playing.” 
Abandoning her studies, Joan soaked up the traditional Appalachian ballads and began performing at the local coffee houses: Club 47, The Ballad Room, and the Golden Vanity. Joan had always been the natural performer of the family, entertaining friends with her quick wit and talent for mimickry and winning school prizes for her ukelele performances. In Cambridge she continued to seek the stage, and quickly gained a reputation for her angelic soprano. Her voice and image somehow managed to be both earthy and ethereal at once, ideally suited to the tragic and spooky mountain ballads she sang. Although Joan occasionally invited Mimi to join her for a duet at some of her gigs, the rising star was clearly Joan. The Baez family watched in amazement as Joan gained one impressive victory after another: she filled the Cambridge coffeehouses, outgrew them in a year, sang with Odetta and Bob Gibson at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, and performed for an audience of thousands at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959. In November of 1960 Joan crowned this series of victories with an album released by Vanguard Recording Society. The younger sister was astonished, awe-struck, eclipsed. by…..Dazzling Stranger …..~

Richard Fariña 

In 1961 Albert accepted another assignment from Unesco, to lead their Division of Science Teaching in Paris. Off they went to Paris, Mr. and Mrs. Baez and Mimi. Pauline had married, and Joan had her singing career, so only Mimi still lived with her parents. In Paris she all but gave up public education and was finishing up high school through correspondence courses, which left her time to enjoy Paris. She starred in an experimental film by Peter Robinson, a friend of her father, and the soundtrack was recorded by Rolf Cahn, a guitarist they knew from Cambridge. She also continued to study dance, and even toured with a ballet troupe in Germany. 

In the Spring of 1962 many folksingers happened to be in Paris for an overseas stomp--there was a brief vogue of expatriatism--so one day in early April they all went on a picnic together in the countryside and visited Chartres Cathedral. In attendance were Mimi, her friend Todd Stuart, John Cooke of the Charles River Valley Boys, English guitarist Alex Campbell, Texas folksinger Carolyn Hester, and Carolyn's husband Richard Fariña, who had planned the picnic. Mimi was to learn later that Richard Fariña planned many picnics, parties, and happenings. He was a writer and poet, eight years older than Mimi, and like herself, he was half Hispanic and half Celtic: son of a Cuban father and Irish mother. Handsome, charming, and learned, Richard dazzled Mimi with stories about the saints and demons depicted in the Cathedral. Mimi, feeling very sophisticated at sixteen, celebrated with wine and cigarettes. She got drunk for the first time in her life and threw her up sandwich on Richard's face. Soon they were in love. Days later, Fariña sent her a poem, "The Field Near the Cathedral at Chartres," which he had written about their meeting--though with poetic license he tactfully omitted the part about Mimi throwing up on his face. 

Young girl, you chose the amber coil of a wish, 
unlocked it with the cocking of a heel 
and stepped away. While in the lunge of flight 
I know the tale in your dark body's book. 
Richard and Carolyn then went to England, since she was scheduled to perform at the Edinburgh Folk Festival in Scotland. By coincidence, Mimi was also going to England to visit a Quaker work camp in Newcastle. Richard schemed to get Mimi to Edinburgh so he could see her again. As the relationship between Richard and Mimi sweetened, his marriage with Carolyn soured. After the Edinburgh Festival Carolyn returned to the U.S. and expedited a swift divorce. 

Richard and Mimi carried on an epistolary courtship for several months until both were living in Paris again. In April of 1963, a year after the Chartres picnic, they were secretly married under the Napoleonic Code at the courthouse of the First Arrondissement. The witnesses at the ceremony were Tom Costner and Yves Chaix, friends of Richard. Later that summer they rejoined the Baez family in California, whereJoan had also resettled. Protective of their youngest daughter, the Baezes were suspicious of Richard, an unemployed "poet" who had dumped one folksinger to marry the sister of another. But somehow Richard ingratiated himself with the family, either through charm or sheer determination, and after asking Mr. Baez for his daughter's hand in marriage, the newlyweds wed once more. 

Folk Duo 

Carmel Valley, CA 
Mimi and Richard moved in a one-room cabin near Joan's home in Carmel Valley. Richard worked on his novel during the day, and at night they would entertain themselves by making music. They began composing songs based on a unique, polyrythmic and improvisational interplay of guitar and dulcimer, an unusual combination that opened up unknown musical territory as wild and beautiful as the Carmel countryside. No doubt their music drew its uniqueness from the extensive travelling they had done individually, each being exposed to a diversity of styles that gave them an eclectic sophistication uncommon in American folk artists of the day. Although their collaboration began only for their own entertainment, their sound was so unique and infectious that everyone encouraged them to share it with the world. Richard began writing lyrics, and Joan submitted some of them to Vanguard's publishing company, Ryerson, who offered him a publishing contract. 

In June of 1964 Nancy Carlen, a friend of Joan, organized a weekend seminar on "The New Folk Music" at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. 

"Well, any time you found Joan Baez, Richard and Mimi Fariña, and me in the same place there had to be singing, so instead of meetings and lectures, sing we did, in the sulphur baths, on the lawns, even during meals sitting at long wooden tables in the lodge. Sunday afternoon we invited the neighborhood in general to join us, turned the deck of the Esalen swimming pool into a stage, and sang to everyone." 
Thus Nancy Carlen describes the first Big Sur Folk Festival. It was here that Mimi and Dick Fariña debuted as a folk duo, playing the only three songs they had practiced well enough to perform in public. But their short set was a hit: the audience begged for more, and three different record companies, including folk giants Vanguard and Elektra, offered them recording contracts. Since Richard already had a publishing contract with Vanguard, they signed with Vanguard, which had done so well for Joan. 

Mimi makes the cover of 
Broadside of Boston   
That fall Mimi and Dick recorded their first album in Olmstead Studios in Manhattan, with the aid of studio sessionman Bruce Langhorne, a guitar wizard and multi-instrumentalist whom Richard had befriended during the recording of Carolyn Hester's album two years earlier. Mimi and Dick were considering going back to Europe after recording the album, but instead they moved to Cambridge, where each of them had lived before. They rejoined old friends and met newcomers to the still growing folk boom--Eric Andersen, Tom Rush, Paul Arnoldi, and others. Mimi and Dick, newcomers themselves as a performing duo, began to play the myriad folk houses, The Rook, the Loft, Club 47. But even among the increasing competition of the Cambridge scene, their music rang out its unique charm, and they won several categories in the Broadside of Boston annual readers poll. 

Celebrations for a Grey Day was finally released in April of 1965. It was a stunningly original album with poetic lyrics and exuberant instrumentals. That summer they brought their fresh new sound to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where they rocked the house and won a standing ovation in the pouring rain, just hours before Bob Dylan's electric set. Though eclipsed in mainstream rock history by Dylan's controversial performance, the Fariñas' concert became legendary in the history of the urban folk revival. Years later, Pete Seeger, Theo Bikel, and many others would remember Richard and Mimi's drenched performance as a prefiguration of Woodstock, with people taking off their clothes and dancing in the mud to the ecstatic rhythms of the Fariñas. 

Although Richard wrote almost all the songs for the duo, Mimi was noted for her creative style of guitar playing, which danced nimbly around Richard's percussive attack on the dulcimer. Even Joan, an excellent guitarist herself, acknowledged in her autobiography And a Voice to Sing With that Mimi was the better guitarist. Elektra producer Jac Holzman recalled Mimi as "hypnotic and immensely musical." Rick Turner of Acoustic Guitar magazine described Mimi's guitar playing as "innovative," "fully formed and very original," "sophisticated and driving." Mimi learned much of her technique while living in Paris and hanging out by the Thames listening to French and Algerian street singers. She also learned a great deal from Bruce Langhorne: "We were both highly influenced by the guitar of Bruce Langhorne," she said. "His whole concept of rhythm added a vitality that we wouldn't have had otherwise." Nevertheless, Mimi forged her own distinctive style. She developed a version of the Travis style with a thumb pick and two fingers, and employed unusual combinations of strums and arpeggios, smoothly integrated into the flow of the music. She also used modal tunings that created a strange alchemy with the diatonic structure of the dulcimer. Yet her style was somewhat self-effacing, never calling attention to itself but rather complementing and blending with the dulcimer. Perhaps Richard said it best when he described the dreamy, evocative style of her playing as "weaving modal memories." David Hajdu, in an interview with Fresh Air, emphasized the importance of Mimi's influence upon Richard: 

"She contributed mightily to his development as a musician, and if it weren't for Mimi and her knowledge of music theory and her understanding of chords and her own creativity Richard Fariña would never have emerged a half-decent songwriter as he did, he would never have had a moderately successful career as half of a performing folk duo as he did with Mimi." 
Richard and Mimi released a second album, Reflections in a Crystal Wind, in December of 1965, on which Mimi contributed her first original composition, "Miles," a shimmering instrumental dedicated to Miles Davis. In February of 1966 they made an appearance on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest TV show. It would be the first of many film appearances for Mimi, but at the time she seemed a bit shy in her brief conversations with Seeger. Nevertheless, they played splendidly and created such infectious rhythms that Seeger was inspired to jump in with a pair of maracas. Seeger was clearly moved by the duo and predicted that their eclectic style would soon be influential all over the world. 


But the extraordinary success of Richard and Mimi ended abruptly in tragedy. April 30, 1966 was to be a joyous day for them both. Richard's novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, had just been published, and in the afternoon the Fariñas attended an autograph party at Thunderbird Bookshop. They then went to Pauline's house, where a surprise birthday party awaited Mimi. It was during this party that Richard took off with Willie Hinds, a friend of Pauline's, who had arrived on a Harley. They zoomed off into the rolling highways of the Carmel Highlands--and never came back. Hours later, when Mimi and others heard sirens in the distance, they found the scene of the accident, and learned that Richard had been thrown from the motorcycle and instantly killed. Following the triumph of two albums and a published novel, his seemingly unquenchable spirit was wrenched from his body. Mimi was a widow on her 21st birthday. This ironic meeting of celebration and death was eerily appropos of that strange mixture of joy and gloom that roamed throughout Richard's songs and writings. 

It was a severe blow to the identity of the young Mimi. She had grown up in the shadow of the Queen of Folk Music, then was tempted by a fleeting success cruelly curtailed--a widow at 21, cast again into the shadows, this time of a husband whose death made him something of a cult figure like James Dean. "I didn't grow in many ways," she recalled in a 1986 interview with Pete Fornatale. "I think I was stunted. I closed myself off." 

In June of 1966 Mimi moved to San Francisco to resume dancing. She rented an apartment on Telegraph Hill, and also got involved with the music scene there, attempting to make a new start. But the swirling acceleration of the mid-sixties music scene added confusion to her attempt to strike out on her own. She was struggling to establish an identity as a solo artist just as folk music was waning and rock music was charging ahead, moving and metamorphosing faster than anyone had ever dreamed. Various concert posters from those heady times announce Mimi appearing with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The billings seem jarring now, as so many do from that eclectic era. Yet Mimi seemed to be excited about it. A San Francisco Chronicle article from September 1966 reported, "Rock music is what she is doing now, and she feels closer to it." Mimi is quoted: 

"Probably rock hits me now because I relate to it in a 'dancey' way, and can be more moved." She says, "My singing now is really much more a part of me," but she also feels that she is more "sound and rhythm and music oriented than voice oriented." 
In May of 1967 Mimi joined Judy Collins, Bruce Langhorne, and newcomer Arlo Guthrie on a tour of Japan. Mimi danced rather than sang on this tour--an intriguing approach that reminds one of Richard's mixed-media experiments. That summer Mimi returned to the Newport Folk Festival and joined Joan and Judy in a lovely rendition of Donovan's "Legend of a Girl Child Linda," which was recorded for Judy's anti-war record, Save the Children. She also appeared on television in a one-hour, black-and-white special, "Music in Golden Gate Park," which also featured Quicksilver Messenger Service. 

Mimi performs a skit with 
The Committee 
Late in 1967 Mimi joined an improvisational comedy troupe, The Committee. Founded by Alan Myerson and Irene Riordan, who had been members of the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, The Committee was based in San Francisco and lasted from 1963 to 1973. Key Magazine described their act as "ingeniously clever barbed wit and satirical lampooning of sacred cows, fetishes, political issues and timely topics." Mimi started as a fan in The Committee's audience, but then, 

"I laughed so hard they asked me to join them.... Dick loved the Committee and I think I was testing being him, as if I had gained some of his energy when he died. I just thought, 'This is what I'm supposed to be doing now.'" 
Through The Committee Mimi made many friends, some of whom she would remained connected to for years to come: Julia Payne, with whom she toured briefly (there is a short clip of them playing together in Celebration at Big Sur); Chris Ross, to whom she later dedicated the song "Reach Out;" and several others who later dedicated their time to Bread & Roses, such as Carl Gottlieb, Gary Goodrow, and David Ogden Steirs (later of M*A*S*H fame). 
Mimi stayed with The Committee for about a year. She later regarded them as "my own little grieving group." The description is revealing: despite all the activity and experimentation, her fling with the psychedelic scene, and her optimism in the press, this was still a difficult period of adjustment as Mimi struggled with her career and her public image. 

There was also talk of recording a solo album with Vanguard. This was probably to fulfill a contract, as Vanguard typically signed their artists for three albums, and she and Richard had only recorded two. What finally emerged in April of 1968 was Memories, a gathering of live recordings, studio outtakes, and singles, plus two new recordings of Mimi singing songs Richard had written but never recorded. Despite the pell-mell format, it was a fine collection of songs that reaffirmed the duo's artistic reputation. However, it also affirmed Mimi's role as a tragic figure. The cover featured Jim Marshall's lovely photo of Mimi standing alone in a field. She smiles ever so slightly, and yet her eyes are infinitely sad. It was a powerful image that resonated with fans for years to come: Mimi, alone, tragic, as if her duty heretofore were to mourn the death of Richard, like a Madonna statue that sheds everlasting tears. Mimi came to resent the image--"the sad-eyed widow bit," as she called it. 

Another unwelcome contribution to this image was the song "Meagan's Gypsy Eyes" on Blood, Sweat & Tears' first album, Child is Father to the Man, released in February of 1968. The song was written by Steve Katz, with whom Mimi had had a relationship about a year before. They had met in December of 1966, when Katz was with his first group, The Blues Project, playing at The Matrix in San Francisco. "I wound up staying with her for a couple of weeks before going back to New York," Katz recalled, "and Mimi eventually came to stay with me." The relationship didn't last long, but one outcome of it was the "Meagan's Gypsy Eyes," which Katz wrote and recorded when the Blues Project evolved into Blood, Sweat & Tears. "I was very young and very much in love, and when Mimi left me, I went through the typical romantic withdrawal routine: hurt, self-pity, anger, reconstruction. 'Meagan's Gypsy Eyes', unfortunately was written and recorded during the angry period." The lyrics are indeed spiteful: 

"Death that clouds her life will be forever 
She is loved yet cannot love, not never." 
I do not know whether Mimi ever heard the song, but if she did she must have perceived the references to her: the similarity of "Meagan" and "Mimi" and a host of other personal allusions would have made it obvious. It was yet another contribution to the hagiography of Mimi as the perpetual widow. 
Sweet Sir Galahad 

A major step in the reversal of this image came in the fall of 1968, when Mimi married Milan Melvin. Melvin was a producer at Mercury Records and a radio announcer for KSAN-FM. He was tall and gaunt, almost Abraham-Lincoln-like, with long black hair. Before meeting Mimi, he had been in a relationship with Janis Joplin. The connection with Janis apparently caused some bad blood between the two singers. Mimi also began to hang out with some of Janis' friends, including Linda Gravenites, a designer who roomed with Janis and also made dresses for Janis' stage act. The last straw, for Janis, came when Mimi asked Linda Gravenites to make her wedding dress. Linda created the appliquéd lace with a beaded lace train that is seen in all the photos of Mimi's wedding with Melvin. 

Their wedding took place at the Big Sur Folk Festival on September 7. Inspired by the sight of Mimi in her wedding dress, Joan wrote one of her first and best songs, "Sweet Sir Galahad," about their courtship and marriage. Home-movie footage of the wedding appears in Celebration at Big Sur, with Joan's performance of the song (from the next fest, in 1969) providing the soundtrack as Mimi and Milan prance in the grass. 

During her second marriage Mimi settled into the role of housewife and was not active musically--only one credit to "Mimi Fariña Melvin" appears on record, on Joan's David's Album, where the sisters sing "Poor Wayfaring Stranger." The marriage did not last. Many sources say Mimi and Milan separated after two years, while Mimi stated that they were married three years and broke up when she was 25. Milan moved to England in the summer of 1970, so perhaps that marked the end of the relationship. Mimi later came to regard the marriage as "a cop-out:" "I was rescuing myself from having to face life alone again.... It was just at that time that my life finally began developing on its own. Suddenly, and miraculously, I began writing songs and finally got a driver's license and started to get around." She also returned to the surname Fariña--perhaps a symbolic act. "I'll always love Dick," she recalled years later. "He was an impossible act to follow." 

Folk Duo, Part Deux 

In 1970 Joan introduced Mimi to an aspiring singer-songwriter named Tom Jans. Both had been writing songs and looking for a partner to perform with. They first experimented as a trio including Julie Payne, with whom Mimi had been performing. But Julie then decided to spend all her time acting, and Mimi and Tom struck out as a duo. As luck would have it, they blended beautifully as musicians and singers. As Tom reported in an interview, 

"I was singing by myself in California, and Mimi was looking for someone to sing with.... I was singing at a little club, and some people from the Institute of Nonviolence asked me to come up and have dinner. That's when I met Joan and through Joan I met Mimi... Mimi and I just started singing, just at home kind of singing for friends, and suddenly...we were getting calls from clubs--so we worked out a couple of songs." 
Their first gig was at The Matrix in San Francisco, but their appearance at the Big Sur Festival was treated as their major debut. They signed with a new independent label, A&M Records, whither Joan had migrated after her ten-year run with Vanguard. Mimi and Tom recorded one splendid album, Take Heart, which included her most famous song, "In The Quiet Morning," a requiem for Janis Joplin. Many feel that Take Heart features some of Mimi's finest work. Mimi and Tom toured extensively in the United States and Europe, and appeared on the Dick Cavett Show. They were a great act, but they split up sometime in mid-1972 for reasons never clearly documented. 
We might guess, judging from Jans' subsequent career, that he was interested in going in a more mainstream direction as a rock artist. But it is also likely that he was tired of laboring under the shadow of the legendary Richard Fariña. A 1972 interview suggests the uneasy relationship Tom had with his predecessor:  

"I don't think I've ever listened to an entire Dick and Mimi Fariña album... I guess I resent the whole thing sometimes." "I don't feel that way at all," said Mimi, staring intently at Tom. "Well, I'm not related to him," said Jans in a restrained way. "I mean he's not my brother or anything." 
As if the challenge of living up to Dick's larger-than-life persona were not daunting enough to begin with, Tom's partnership with Mimi also coincided with something of a Richard Fariña Revival. During 1971, the year of Mimi and Tom's debut, Vanguard released The Best of Mimi & Richard Fariña; Paramount released a film adaptation of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me; and a musical celebrating his life and art, Richard Fariña: Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone, ran in Boston and New York. Mimi herself was involved with the musical, collaborating with Joan, Judy Collins, and Richard's father. There were even plans for Mimi and Mr. Farina to write a biography of Richard. Amid all this attention to a deceased legend, it's not surprising that Tom Jans had to strike out on his own, lest the shadow that seemed to loom over Mimi should overtake him as well. Tom released a solo album with A&M in 1974, and a few more albums followed on Columbia in a fairly successful career. 
Mimi, on the other hand, struggled against commercialism. She began to record a solo album with CBS Records, which reportedly cost $10,000 to make, but she was turned off by the bottom-line priorities of the music industry. Her producer said to her, "Just tell me you want to have a hit and we can work together." She recalled in an interview years later, 

"For me, that was an example of how somebody didn't treat someone else like a human. I was looked on as a product.... I told him that I'd love to hear myself on the radio, but it's not the aim of my life. I don't think they wanted me. They wanted something they could package. If things got really difficult I don't know how far I would bend. I've got to make a living. But this time I wouldn't bend far enough." 
In the end, Mimi was released from her contract and the album disappeared into oblivion. Or, as she good-humoredly described it, "I was released and the album wasn't." Mimi salvaged a couple of the songs she had written, and recorded them again with Joan for her 1973 album, Where Are You Now, My Son? But the irony could not have been lost on Mimi: Joan had the freedom to record her most controversial album ever, while Mimi's career was faltering. The CBS memo releasing Mimi from her contract had described her as "a marginal act," a label that enraged Mimi for years to come. She became increasingly bitter about the music industry. With the emergence of "arena rock" in the early seventies, record companies began to cast their greedy eyes on bigger and bigger profits, squeezing out "smaller" artists and turning rock stars into rich moguls who became disconnected from their fans, their community, and their roots. 

Bread & Roses 

Poster for the second 
Bread & Roses festival, 1978 
On Thanksgiving of 1972 Mimi joined Joan and B.B. King in a concert at Sing Sing Prison in New York. It was a scary undertaking, and yet she marveled at the humanizing effect that the music had on the inmates. A while later Mimi performed a free concert at a hospital where her cousin, Skipper Henderson, worked. Once again, she was struck by the effect that the music produced in an intimate environment, in contrast to the sometimes unappreciative responses of boisterous, drunken audiences she encountered in some of the nightclubs she had played in. 

Inspired by these experiences, Mimi founded Bread & Roses, a non-profit organization which would provide free music to shut-ins at hospitals, convalescent homes, prisons, psychiatric wards, homeless shelters, and drug rehabilitation centers in the Bay area. By the late seventies, Bread & Roses had become well-known and successful enough that they were able to organize a three-day benefit festival to raise money and awareness for their mission. Featuring Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, and dozens of others, the festival was a huge success, both financially and artistically, Mimi was praised not only for her organizational skills but also for the respect she gave to the artists donating their talent, who were given free massages. The festival became an annual event, and two albums were released, one from the first (1977) festival and one from the third (1979). By the eighties, Bread & Roses was providing hundreds of free concerts a year and had inspired other organizations around the country. 

Explaining the purpose of Bread & Roses, Mimi once recalled how she witnessed "a man who had had a stroke and hadn't spoken for weeks, and when the performer sang a hymn which he must have known, he suddenly began singing along, in key, knowing all the words. He stunned the nurses....These are the very miraculous treatments that are proof to us that the music gets through on a level where the talking and the teaching and the medication may not have the same capability." 

But Bread & Roses had a two-fold benefit for both the audience and the performers. Being friends with many musical "stars," Mimi saw firsthand how fame often isolated them, uprooting them from the fellow-feeling that had inspired their music in the first place. In a 1978 interview in CoEvolution Quarterly, Mimi described the predicament of famous musicians: 

"They are kept away from society, kept away from community life, family life, a kind of normal home life that most people have to deal with. Being on the road, in planes, in elevators, in hotel rooms, in backstages, you really are hidden, just the way an institutionalized person is hidden from society. Having watched one entertainer after another come out of an institution saying, "Boy, there but for fortune..." I can't help but think some of those creative minds will have to respond, maybe not now, maybe twenty years from now.... 
It really pains me to see people who were inspired when they were young, who got chills all over at the sound of music or a piece of art, something that inspired them to want to do it made them excited and made them gleeful and happy and energized and vital, and to watch that go down the drain for the sake of the industry, for the sake of money, for the sake of receiving future funds that'll enable them to live until eternity in a happy house with a pool and a sauna, that is uninspiring to me and takes away from the value of the art." 

More Than a Marginal Act 

The valiant work of Bread & Roses occupied most of Mimi's time from 1974 onwards, though she continue to appeared at folk festivals and made guest appearances on various albums by friends of hers. But she never entirely let go of an ambition to validate herself as a solo performer with a solo album. By the late seventies Bread & Roses had earned Mimi a reputation independent of Richard Fariña, Tom Jans, or her big sister Joan. She had made a name for herself, and with renewed confidence she started shopping around for a record contract again. She recorded an album for Wolfgang, a label led by Bill Graham. An article in CoEvolution Quarterly in 1978 announced that it would be out in September under the title More Than A Charitable Act. Unfortunately, the album never materialized, for reasons unknown. 

A few years later, Mimi recorded a demo for the Cambridge folk label Rounder Records. Rounder rejected the demo at first, but by the mid-eighties there was a resurgence of interest in the folkie generation, as evidenced by the restoration of the Newport Folk Festival in 1985 (the first since 1969). No doubt many people were turned off by the decadence of MTV and sought the palpable humanity of a more home-spun music. At any rate, Rounder Records became interested in Mimi again. She began recording around June of 1985, and Solo was released at the end of the year. In her "Mimi Sez" column of the Bread & Roses newsletter she explained her album thus: 

"After many years of putting my music career in second place and choosing to devote most of my time to the non-profit world, I am pleased to announce that soon I will be releasing my first solo album. No, I won't be leaving Bread & Roses; it still brings joy and purpose to the lives of many, including my own. But I do intend to share more of my time between music and what Tom Paxton refers to as one's "day gig". An office structure provides a stability for me that is often missing in an entertainer's lifestyle. But don't misunderstand: I'd never refuse a limo ride, or a standing ovation. 
The lure of the stage remains compelling. For me it's not the glamour of show biz so much as a marvelous means with which to communicate. A song can relate emotions which reach the poet in all of us, and can tap a common ground we often forget to tread. It's those feelings that inspire me to write and sing." 

Mimi toured extensively in the mid-eighties but seems to have stopped around 1988. She must have realized at some point that Bread & Roses was her true calling, her life's work. In retrospect it seems as if her entire life uniquely prepared her for this mission: her Quaker upbringing, her parents' politics, her early experiences as a young child in Baghdad, which inspired her passion for social justice; her constant moving, which gave her a distaste for travel and a fondness for the creature comforts of home; her deeply conflicted feelings toward the musician's life, which bred her cynicism for the industry yet also a fervent belief in music's healing power. Perhaps the most determining factor of all was her role as the youngest daughter in the family. Perhaps I am biased because I too am the youngest child, but it seems to me that her little-sister relationship with Joan patterned her relationship with Richard and to a lesser extent her entire approach to life. Joan Baez and Richard Fariña were the dazzling sun and mysterious moon that visited such strange and ironic experiences upon her. The unique path she walked deepened her compassion for the marginalized, the outcast, the left behind, and sparked a desire to make their world a little brighter. 
After years of hard work and a flotilla of honors and awards for her achievements, Mimi was planning to retire in 2000, following Bread & Roses' 25th anniversary celebration. But in November of 1999, following a bout with Hepatitis C, Mimi was diagnosed with cancer. She had no choice but to take an early retirement to begin chemo therapy as well as alternative healing approaches. She was still able to participate in the gala 25th anniversary celebration in March of 2000, and struggled on for another year and a half. She died on July 18, 2001, at her home in Mill Valley. 

Mimi Fariña forged a purposeful life out of senseless tragedy, and her legacy lives on in the work of Bread & Roses and the people who have been touched by her music. .....~

A1 The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood 4:16 
A2 Joy 'Round My Brain 3:45 
A3 Lemonade Lady 2:00 
A4 Downtown (Instrumental) 1:34 
A5 Almond Joy 2:11 
A6 Blood Red Roses 2:29 
A7 Morgan The Pirate 5:45 
B1 Dopico; Celebration For A Grey Day (Instrumental) 6:34 
B2 House Un-American Blues Activity Dream 3:50 
B3 A Swallow Song 2:45 
B4 All The World Has Gone By 3:40 
B5 Pack Up Your Sorrows 3:00 

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“A Revolutionary New Triumph in Tape” 1958

“A Revolutionary New Triumph in Tape” 1958