I didn't know Baez in the early sixties (the period of David Hadju's book)
and being a
jazz person have never been involved with her music. But I met her during
the anti-war movement
when she was involved in The Resistance and other anti-war stuff. (I was not
a friend of
hers but met her at a couple of Resistance conferences and once did work at
Her commitment to political activism, especially nonviolence, was the real
thing. When she
joined workshops at these conferences she participated as an activist, not a
knew the issues, knew what she was talking about. She was quite courageous.
I recall a grape strike picket line during which a group of landowners tried
the pickets away. Joan took out her guitar, confronted them nose to nose,
and sang "pastures of
plenty" (literally in their face). There was no media, no record producers,
no film crew to record this.
It was a great moment and I've always respected her for that.
----- Original Message -----
From: radman <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2001 9:12 PM
Subject: [sixties-l] Folks highway to 60s revisited
> Folk's highway to '60s revisited
> 'Positively 4th' recalls lives of Baez, Dylan and Farina
> By Jerry Schwartz
> ASSOCIATED PRESS
> July 12 -- In the acknowledgments for his profile of four musicians at
> heart of the 1960s folk revival, David Hadju makes a special point to
> Mimi Baez Farina. Only his wife, he says, was more instrumental in the
> creation of this book. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Mimi
> Farina is the only one to emerge from the pages of this book looking good.
> SHE IS SWEET and loving, beautiful and talented, unassuming and impervious
> to the siren call of fame.
> Unlike her more famous sister, who is painted as deceptively ambitious,
> extraordinarily shallow (reading next to nothing, and knowing little about
> the causes she espoused), and capable of unthinking cruelty "among
> friends, Joan sometimes appeared to suspend her pacifism."
> Unlike her more famous sister's even more famous boyfriend. The Bob Dylan
> of this book is a monster self-involved and self-centered, calculating to
> the bone, given to playing mind games with friends and lovers. He turns
> against Joan Baez with an almost breathtaking abruptness.
> Unlike her husband.
> In many ways, Richard Farina is the central character of this book. A
> wannabe famous writer and musician, he appeared to be on the brink of
> actual fame when he died in a motorcycle accident in July 1966.
> To judge from "Positively 4th Street," Farina was charming and
> But he also was a habitual liar, a charlatan, a megalomaniac and a
> world-class user.
> WHY BOTHER?
> Eventually, the reader has to ask: Could these people be so awful? If the
> answer is no if Hadju is an unreliable narrator his book has limited
> If the answer is yes, well, you have to wonder why anyone would bother to
> read about them. We're not talking about the Bloomsbury set here. Of the
> four, only Dylan could be said to have had a major impact on our cultural
> lives. And it seems strange and unsatisfying to see him purely through the
> prism of his relationships with Farina and the Baez girls.
> Hadju's writing is assured but not compelling. The reporting is good, if
> sometimes maddeningly detailed we learn what kind of stew Joan Baez made
> and when, and even that Dylan once spooned the meat out of a stew and left
> the vegetables to the others.
> SMART EVOCATION OF THE '60S
> "Positively 4th Street" has one real strength: In its early chapters,
> especially, Hadju does a good job of evoking the folk world of the late
> 1950s and early '60s, when young people galvanized by Woody Guthrie and
> Pete Seeger filled clubs in New York City, Boston and beyond.
> And he shows the confusion and anger of traditional folkies as Dylan and
> others changed this music, dragging it from the political to the personal,
> and from acoustic to rock 'n' roll.
> In the end, though, it should be remembered that Hadju took the title of
> this book from the name of a Dylan song that disparages the folkies a
> that Hadju himself describes as an array of "incessant, strategically
> placed jabs."
> It could be argued that Hadju's "Positively 4th Street" is much the same
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