Richard and Mimi Farina – 1960’s Folksingers

Photo from album cover

Richard and Mimi Farina were popular folksingers of the 1960’s

If you lived during the 1960s you may remember Richard and Mimi Farina. Richard was a songwriter, dulcimer player, and novelist. His wife, Mimi, was only 16 when he met her. They married two years later. She was a younger sister of Joan Baez. She had the voice of a nightingale and played guitar.

Tragically, Richard Farina died young – far too young. He was killed in a motorcycle accident near Carmel, California on Mimi’s 21st birthday. She was devastated. She remarried a few years later but it did not last. She pursued her musical career and established Bread & Roses, a charity that took music to those living in institutional settings such as hospitals and prisons. She passed away in 2001 due to neuroendocrine cancer.

Pack Up Your Sorrows was written by Richard Farina and Pauline Marden (one of Mimi’s sisters).

In the video: Richard Farina, Mimi Farina and Pete Seeger.

Richard and Mimi Farina Recordings

Richard & Mimi Farina
Complete Vanguard Recordings

A complete set of the Vanguard recordings of Richard and Mimi Farina. 45 tracks on three CDs. Includes “Pack Up Your Sorrows” and seven previously unreleased recordings from the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Richard George Farina

March 8, 1937 – April 30, 1966

Richard Farina was born on March 8, 1937 in Brooklyn, NY at Midwood Hospital. His mother, Theresa Crozier, was from Moortown in Northern Ireland. His father, Liborio Ricardo Farina, came from Matanzas in Cuba.

After going to college at Cornell University in upstate New York he moved to Greenwich Village in Manhattan. He met his first wife, Carolyn Hester, at the legendary White Horse tavern. She was already an accomplished folksinger and had just finished her first album. They married on June 17, 1960. Farina was unemployed and soon became Carolyn’s manager. After learning to play dulcimer he started appearing on stage with her. Apparently she became disenchanted with his intrusion into her musical career and when the marriage was at a low point after several tours, she continued on tour without him.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina

Richard Farina’s novel of the sixties:
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me
Trip through the sixties culture with Gnossus Pappadopoulis.

In her absence he met Mimi Baez at a picnic in France when she was sixteen. They may have been attracted in part because both felt overshadowed musically by their loved ones; he by Carolyn’s success, and she by her sister Joan Baez’ popularity. After his divorce Richard married Mimi secretly in Paris France in April 1963. Her parents were not happy about the elopement, so a second wedding was held in California on August 24, 1963.

They moved into a cabin near Joan Baez’ home in Carmel. There they practiced their songs – he on dulcimer and she on guitar – and after their first appearance in nearby Big Sur at a folk festival in 1964 they were offered a recording contract with Vanguard Records.

Richard Farina’s novel was published in 1966. Two days later, on Mimi’s 21st birthday, they attended a book signing at the Thunderbird Bookstore in Carmel Valley. Next they went to Mimi’s birthday party at Pauline Baez’ home. Willie Hinds arrived on a Harley and took Richard Farina for a ride which unfortunately ended with a devastating accident. Richard Farina was killed instantly after being thrown across two fences and into an embankment.

Margarita Mimi Baez Farina

April 30, 1945 to July 18, 2001

Joan and Mimi singing together
at Sing-Sing Prison in New York

Joan Baez is a hard act to follow. So was Richard Farina. But Mimi Farina deserves far more recognition than she got, eclipsed as she was by these luminaries in her life. She was an amazing person, in her own right.

Mimi Farina was born on April 30, 1945 in Palo Alto, California, to a Scottish mother, Joan Bridge Baez, and Mexican father, Dr. Albert Baez, a physicist. Her older sisters are Pauline, who wrote “Pack Up Your Sorrows” with Richard Farina, and the infamous Joan Baez. She was raised as a Quaker which resulted in a lifelong love of peace and the peace movement in the USA.

Mimi Farina and her older sisters all received dance and music lessons during early childhood. When she was nine she and Joan saw Pete Seeger in concert and decided to become singers. As teenagers they took part in the emerging folk music scene in Massachusetts.

By 1961 Joan was becoming famous while Mimi was still in high school. Mimi moved to Paris with her parents and while there, at the age of 16, she met Richard Farina at a picnic. They married two years later after his divorce from Carolyn Hester.

Mimi Farina, with her lovely soprano voice, was the songbird Richard Farina needed to make his musical aspirations successful. Their first album was Celebrations for a Gray Day; the second was Reflections in a Crystal Wind – both released in 1965. Only a few short months later, on her 21st birthday, Mimi Farina became a widow.

She moved to San Francisco and joined a rock band, The Only Alternative and His Other Possibilities, toured with Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, and Bruce Langhorne, and became a comedienne with The Committee.

In 1967 Mimi, her sister, Joan, and their mother, Joan Bridge Baez, were all arrested at a peace protest, and spent a short time in jail.

Mimi remarried in 1968, only 2 years and 5 months after Richard’s death. Her marriage to Milan Melvin lasted only two years; they divorced in 1970. She never remarried again though she did have a partner, journalist Paul Liberatore, at the time of her passing in 2001.

In the 1971 and 1972 she teamed up with San Francisco folksinger Tom Jans. Together they recorded a song Mimi wrote to remember Janis Joplin: In the Quiet Morning.

Her most outstanding and lasting contribution was to establish Bread and Roses – a charitable organization intended to bring musical performances to institutionalized people – both those in prisons and in hospitals. The organization remains functional and busy to this day.

In 1985 she released a solo album. She wrote most of the songs. The album was appropriately titled, Solo.

Like Richard Farina, Mimi passed away too soon, at the age of 56, due to neuroendocrine cancer. She died on July 18, 2001, in Mill Valley, California.

Learn more about Richard & Mimi Farina

Richard & Mimi Farina Fansite
Excellent fan site filled with information about Richard and Mimi Farina.

Bread and Roses Founder Singer-Activist Mimi Farina Dead at 56
Mimi Farina’s obituary in the Marin Journal.

Bread and Roses
Bread & Roses is dedicated to uplifting the human spirit by providing free, live, quality shows to people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society.

Reflections On a Crystal Wind

If there’s a way to say I’m sorry

Perhaps I’ll stay another evening beside your door

And watch the moon rise inside your window

Where jewels are falling and flowers weeping and strangers laughing

Because you’re grieving that I have gone.

And if I don’t know why I’m going

Perhaps I’ll wait beside the pathway where no-one’s coming

And count the questions I turned away from or closed my eyes to

Or had no time for or passed right over

Because the answers would shame my pride.

I’ve heard them say the word forever

But I don’t know if words have meaning when they are promised

In fear of losing what can’t be borrowed

Or lent in blindness or blessed by pageantry or sold by preachers

While you’re still walking your separate way.

Sometimes we bind ourselves together

And seldom know the harm in binding the only feeling that cries for freedom

And needs unfolding and understanding

And time for holding a simple mirror

With one reflection to call your own.

If there’s an end to all our dreaming

Perhaps I’ll go while you’re still standing beside your door

And I’ll remember your hands encircling a bowl of moonstones

A lamp of childhood a robe of roses

Because your sorrows were still unborn.