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Mimi & Richard Farina

+ {Richard & Mimi Farina} + {Mimi Farina}

Married secretly in Paris 1963 – April 30th to be exact – and formed as a musical duo a year later, MIMI & RICHARD FARINA played their inaugural gig at the 1964 Big Sur Festival. Born in 1937, the son of an Irish mother and Cuban father, Richard was raised in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn and later went to Cornell University alongside fellow student activists Peter Yarrow and novelist Thomas Pynchon.
In 1960, through Celtic minstrel TOMMY MAKEM (who’d also been staying in Greenwich Village at the time), Richard met, and almost immediately married, established bohemian folksinger CAROLYN HESTER, although their relationship soured after the pair performed together at the Edinburgh Folk Festival of ’62; they divorced February 1963. It was around this time that Richard, who was working on his first novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me (published in ’66, a movie in ’71), collaborated with folkie ERIC VON SCHMIDT on a deferred eponymous LP, DICK FARINA & ERIC VON SCHMIDT (1967) {*4}.
Having been earlier introduced to 17-year-old singer Mimi Baez (sister of JOAN BAEZ) at a folkie convention in Europe, the couple soon settled in Carmel, California. In 1964, MIMI & RICHARD FARINA (as they were initially billed) inked a deal with Vanguard Records, home to artists such as sister BAEZ and IAN & SYLVIA, among others.
With DYLAN cohort Bruce Langhorne in attendance (alongside Charles Small, Felix Pappalardi, Russ Savakus, Alvin Rogers and John Hammond), their debut set, CELEBRATIONS FOR A GREY DAY (1965) {*6}, should’ve fared better. Richard, now a multi-instrumentalist (mainly of the Appalachian variety), wrote all 13 cues, the most memorable and inspiring being `Pack Up Your Troubles’ (better known to BAEZ fans) and `Reno, Nevada’ (covered by FAIRPORT CONVENTION); one track, `Tommy Makem Fantasy’, was a tribute to his old mucker.
Now as RICHARD & MIMI FARINA, the pair rush-released a second set, REFLECTIONS IN A CRYSTAL WIND (1965) {*7}, an austere, back-to-basics record highlighted by a few reserved gems like `Hard-Loving Loser’, `A Swallow Song’, `Bold Marauder’ (penned with Mimi) and `House Un-American Blues Activity Dream’; the latter two had appeared as solo RICHARD FARINA contributions (alongside `Birmingham Sunday’) on a rare Various Artists LP, `The Singer-Songwriter Project’, featuring DAVID BLUE, PATRICK SKY and unknown Bruce Murdoch.
Just when things looked on the up for the duo, Richard was killed in a motorcycle accident on April 30, 1966, returning from his book publication party to his home in Carmel. This ended what was a promising career, although there was a posthumous out-takes compendium delivered in 1968, MEMORIES {*6}, a record highlighted by trad dirge `The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’ (later covered by the FAIRPORTs), an ode to DYLAN, `Morgan The Pirate’ and a BAEZ collaboration, `All The World Has Gone By’.
Obviously distraught at the untimely tragedy, it took a number of long years for Mimi to get back to her first love, singing; she’d previously become part of a satirical theatre “Committee”, while she subsequently set up a charity fund-raiser in the 70s, entitled Bread and Roses.
With new partner and collaborator TOM JANS (who played guitar and piano), MIMI FARINA finally signed to A&M Records for the release of TAKE HEART (1971) {*5}, notable for its plethora of session people and the inclusion of their JANIS JOPLIN tribute, `In The Quiet Morning’; the couple’s time together was brief as they split in ’72; Jans, too, met his fate in a road accident, in ’84. Mimi issued one more SOLO {*6} album in 1985, a self-penned record that also saw her reciting TIM HARDIN’s `How Can We Hang On To A Dream’, Dick Pinney’s `Walk Me ‘Round Your Garden’ and David Olney’s `If My Eyes Were Blind’.
Having devoted the rest of her life to her aforementioned foundation, bringing music to people in drug rehabilitation centres, psychiatric hospitals and prisons, she succumbed to cancer and died at her home in Mill Valley, California on July 18, 2001.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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