[sixties-l] Mimi Farina, singer-activist, 56, dies

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Jul 19 2001 - 21:09:18 EDT

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    Mimi Farina, singer-activist, 56, dies


    Sister of Baez, member of 'folk royalty,' had cancer

    July 19 Singer and social activist Mimi Farina, who with her sister and
    fellow singer Joan Baez was a member of "folk royalty" in the 1960s but
    left behind a music career to devote herself to charitable work, died of
    cancer Wednesday at her home in Marin County, California. She was 56.
    FARINA RECORDED SEVERAL hits in the 1960s both as a solo artist and with
    her husband, Richard Farina, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966.
    She was best known in the San Francisco area for founding Bread & Roses, a
    nonprofit organization launched in 1974 that brought live music and top
    performers to people in jails, psychiatric wards and drug rehabilitation
    "Mimi filled empty souls with hope and song. She reminded prisoners that
    they were human beings with names and not just numbers," Baez said in a
    statement released to the Bay City News Service. "The devastation I feel at
    losing her is unbearable."
    Farina leaves behind her parents, Albert Baez and Joan Baez Sr., as well as
    her two sisters, two nephews, a niece and her partner, reporter Paul
    A public ceremony honoring Farina at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is
    scheduled for Aug. 7.

    Folk Singer-Activist Mimi Farina, Sister Of Joan Baez, Dies At 56


    July 19, 2001

    Mimi Farina, who followed the example of her older sister Joan Baez by
    forging a career as a folksinger and activist, died Wednesday (July 18) at
    her home in Mill Valley, Calif., of complications related to lung cancer.
    She was 56.
    Farina was part of a circle of '60s singer-songwriters that included Baez,
    Bob Dylan, and her husband
    Richard Farina. After Richard Farina's death in a 1966 motorcycle accident,
    she resumed her musical career, but by the '70s had shifted her focus to
    community service. She founded the non-profit group Bread & Roses, which
    presented music to people confined to jails, psychiatric treatment
    facilities, and drug rehabilitation centers.
    "Mimi filled empty souls with hope and song. She held the aged and
    forgotten in her light. She reminded prisoners that they were human beings
    with names, and not just numbers," said Joan Baez in a statement to the Bay
    City News Service, "The devastation I feel at losing her is unbearable."
    Margarita Mimi Baez was born April 30, 1945 in Palo Alto, Calif., the
    youngest of three daughters. When her family moved to Boston in the
    late-'50s, Joan became a fixture on the Cambridge, Mass., folk scene, while
    the teenaged Mimi contented herself simply playing guitar at home or among
    friends. Mimi subsequently moved to Paris, where she met
    singer-songwriter-author Richard Farina. They were married in 1963.
    Richard and Mimi Farina recorded two albums for the Vanguard label,
    Celebrations For a Grey Day in 1965 and Reflections in a Crystal Wind the
    following year. They joined the Greenwich Village folk music scene, along
    with Baez and Dylan, her onetime boyfriend. (The interweaving of these
    musicians' lives is detailed in biographer David Hadju's book Positively
    4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina,
    and Richard Farina.)
    Mimi returned to music in 1967, and in 1971 recorded Take Heart for A&M
    Records with singer-songwriter Tom Jans. A 1973 Farina album for the label
    was never completed, but she continued to perform through the end of the
    decade. In 1985, she released the album Solo.
    After Farina founded the Bread & Roses non-profit organization
    (www.breadandroses.com) in 1974, she gradually abandoned performing, with
    the exception of her '95 and '96 performances in concert with Baez, and on
    the Baez album Ring Them Bells. In 2000, Bread & Roses celebrated its 25th
    anniversary with a San Francisco concert hosted by Farina, and featuring
    Baez, Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Boz Scaggs, and Pete Seeger.
    Farina is survived by her partner Paul Liberatore; her parents, Albert and
    Joan Baez; her sisters Joan Baez and Pauline Bryan; two nephews, and a
    niece. A ceremony to honor Farina is scheduled for Aug. 7 at Grace
    Cathedral in San Francisco.

    Folksinger Mimi Farina, Bread and Roses founder


    Gift of live music for thousands of shut-ins

    Joel Selvin, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Thursday, July 19, 2001

    Mimi Farina, folksinger and founder of the Bread and Roses charitable
    organization, died of cancer yesterday morning at her Mill Valley home. She
    was 56. Her family, including sister Joan Baez, were at her bedside.
    "She finally won her battle with cancer," Baez said.
    Ms. Farina found out she had lung cancer in December 1998. She continued
    with plans for the gala 25th anniversary celebration for Bread and Roses at
    San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House in March 2000, where she appeared
    wearing a turban to hide her hair loss from chemotherapy treatments. She
    made jokes about not having bad hair days any longer.
    With her husband, Richard Farina, she recorded a pair of classic folk
    albums in the mid-60s. Her husband, who wrote "Been Down So Long It Looks
    Like Up to Me," died in a motorcycle crash on his way home from his first
    book- signing in 1966. It was her 21st birthday
    Her romance with Richard Farina was chronicled in the current best-seller,
    "Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi
    Baez Farina, and Richard Farina" by author David Hajdu.
    Ms. Farina continued her career in music after her husband's death,
    although it was as founder of the charitable organization Bread and Roses
    that she found lasting rewards. The nonprofit organization in Marin County
    presents live music performances to shut-ins at hospitals, prisons and
    senior homes. Bread and Roses presented more than 500 performances at 99
    institutions last year with more than 600 volunteers and a staff of only nine.
    Mimi Farina, the youngest of three daughters, was born while their father
    studied for his doctorate at Stanford. She lived with her family in Baghdad
    and Paris, where she met Richard Farina, a half-Irish, half-Cuban beatnik.
    They married and moved to the Carmel highlands and pursued a career as a
    folk-singing team. Richard and Mimi Farina recorded two albums,
    "Reflections in a Crystal Wind" and "Celebration for a Grey Day," and at
    least one of their songs, "Pack Up Your Sorrows," was an airplay staple in
    the early days of underground FM radio. His dulcimer still sits in his
    widow's home.
    After her husband's death, she continued to play music, including a brief
    fling with an acid-rock band, the Only Alternative and his Other
    She joined the popular San Francisco satirical theater troupe The Committee
    the next year.
    She married hippie radio entrepreneur Milan Melvin in 1968 in an improvised
    outdoor ceremony at the Big Sur Folk Festival, a counterculture social
    event prominent enough to have been chronicled in the pages of early
    Rolling Stone. The marriage ended in divorce two years later. She recorded
    an album with singer-songwriter Tom Jans in 1971, the last album she
    released, but at that point Ms. Farina was tiring of the music business
    "I suffered from comparing my voice to my sister's," Ms. Farina said in
    February 1999. "In the end, it was a great relief to stop singing."
    The idea for Bread and Roses came in 1974 when she and her sister attended
    a moving show by bluesman B.B. King at New York's Sing Sing prison in 1974.
    "It was phenomenal to watch the place go silent, which doesn't happen that
    much in prison," she said.
    But it was a performance she gave a few months later at a halfway house for
    troubled teenagers arranged by a cousin that crystallized the idea for
    Bread and Roses.
    "It wasn't inspiring at the moment," she said. "It was hard to get their
    attention, this roomful of unhappy teens. But I realized I could imagine
    people who could be really good at this."
    At first, Ms. Farina financed the organization with annual benefits at the
    Greek Theater in Berkeley. These were all-acoustic concerts, long before
    anyone called it "unplugged," that featured three days of the greats and
    near- greats of folk, blues and rock, Kris Kristofferson, Ry Cooder,
    Jackson Browne, David Crosby and Graham Nash, and, of course, her sister.
    She shifted her fund-raising approach to corporate and private donors after
    losses from the sixth annual event threatened to bankrupt the organization.
    The 2000 Opera House gala was the cornerstone of a campaign to raise $3
    million to ensure the financial stability of the organization.
    Among the many name entertainers who have volunteered for Bread and Roses
    are Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Huey Lewis, Neil Young and
    Van Morrison. Bread and Roses brought jazz great Jon Hendricks to sing at
    the Redwoods, a Mill Valley retirement home, and presented Willie Nelson to
    Delancey Street residents. Michael Feinstein once stayed at Laguna Honda
    hospital until he sang every request. At the rate of about 10 per week,
    Bread and Roses produces more shows than Bill Graham Presents.
    There are now more than 15 other community organizations modeled after
    Bread and Roses across the country.
    Ms. Farina is survived by her mother and father, Albert and Joan Baez, her
    two sisters, Joan Baez and Pauline Bryan. A memorial service will be held
    at Grace Cathedral, but a date has not been set.

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