Mimi Fariña

Mimi Fariña
Mimi Fariña

Fariña playing at a benefit for Bread and Roses
Background information
Birth name Margarita Mimi Baez
Born April 30, 1945(1945-04-30)
York, Pennsylvania, USA
Died July 18, 2001(2001-07-18) (aged 56)
Mill Valley, California, USA
Genres Folk, bluegrass, Folk rock
Occupations Musician
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Years active 1963–2001
Labels Vanguard Records, Rounder Records
Associated acts Richard Fariña, Joan Baez, Tom Jans, Pete Sears

Mimi Baez Fariña (born Margarita Mimi Baez, April 30, 1945 – July 18, 2001) was a singer-songwriter and activist, the youngest of three daughters to a Scottish mother and Mexican-American physicist Albert Baez (her next-older sister is singer and activist Joan Baez).[1]



Early years

Fariña's father, a physicist affiliated with Stanford University and MIT, moved his family frequently, due to his job assignments, working in places not just in the U.S. but internationally. She benefited from dance and music lessons, and took up the guitar, joining the sixties American folk music revival.

Fariña met novelist, musician and composer Richard Fariña in 1963 at the age of 17 and married him at 18. The two collaborated on a number of influential folk albums, most notably Celebrations for a Grey Day (1965) and Reflections in a Crystal Wind (1966), both on Vanguard Records. After Richard Fariña's death (on Mimi's 21st birthday) in a 1966 motorcycle accident, Mimi married Milan Melvin and continued to perform, sometimes recording and touring with either her sister Joan, or folksinger Tom Jans, with whom she recorded an album in 1971, entitled, Take Heart. Among the songs she wrote is In the Quiet Morning (For Janis Joplin), which her sister recorded. The song is included on Joan Baez's Greatest Hits album.

In 1967, Fariña joined a satiric comedy troupe called The Committee. That same year, she and her sister Joan Baez were arrested at a peaceful demonstration where the two were temporarily housed in Santa Rita Jail, personalizing the experience of captivity for her. By 1973, she was asked to accompany her sister Joan, and B.B. King and perform for the prisoners in Sing Sing Prison. Those two experiences led her to a desire to do more for those who are held in institutions.

Bread and Roses

In 1974, Fariña founded Bread and Roses, a non-profit co-operative organization, designed to bring free music and entertainment to institutions: jails, hospitals, juvenile facilities, nursing homes, and prisons, initially in the San Francisco Bay area, and later nationally. It still remains in operation, producing 500 shows per year. The organization's name came from a 1911 poem by James Oppenheim, Bread and Roses, which is commonly associated with a 1912 garment workers' strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Though she continued to sing in her later years, releasing an album in 1985 and performing sporadically, Fariña devoted most of her time to running Bread and Roses. In the late 1980s, she teamed up with Pete Sears to play a variety of benefit and protest concerts. Many concerts were concerned with human rights issues in Central America, especially the US backed civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. They once set up to play on the abandoned railroad tracks outside Concord Naval Base in California. Surrounded by military police, Farina and Sears played a show for people protesting US weapons being shipped to government troops in El Salvador.

In 1986, she took the time to record her own album, Mimi Farina Solo.

Fariña used her connections with the folksinging community to elicit help in her focus with Bread and Roses, including Pete Seeger, Paul Winter, Odetta, Judy Collins, Taj Mahal, Lily Tomlin, Carlos Santana, and Bonnie Raitt, amongst others. In 2000 alone, Bread and Roses brought performers to play in over 500 concerts in 82 institutions.[1]

Death and legacy

Fariña died of neuroendocrine cancer, at her home in California, on July 18, 2001, at age 56.[1]

The life of Mimi Fariña is partially chronicled in David Hajdu's book, Positively 4th Street. She also has a cameo appearance in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, set in San Francisco in the '70s.

She is referenced by Carol Ward (Catherine O'Hara) in the US television series Six Feet Under, stating she had been involved with the production of the (fictitious) Pack Up Your Sorrows: The Mimi Fariña Story. She was also the subject of her sister Joan Baez's 1969 song "Sweet Sir Galahad."

Selected discography

  • 1965: Celebrations for a Grey Day with Richard Fariña, Vanguard Records
  • 1966: Reflections in a Crystal Wind with Richard Fariña, Vanguard Records
  • 1968: "Memories" with Richard Fariña, Vanguard Records
  • 1971: Take Heart with Tom Jans A&M Records
  • 1985: Mimi Farina Solo Rounder Records

See also


  1. ^ a b c Ashley, Beth (2001). "Bread and Roses Founder Singer-Activist Mimi Farina Dead at 56". Common Dreams.org. Marin Independent Journal. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/0719-02.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 

External links

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