Fariña playing at a benefit for Bread and Roses
|Margarita Mimi Baez|
April 30, 1945|
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
July 18, 2001 (aged 56)|
Mill Valley, California, U.S.
Margarita Mimi Baez Fariña (April 30, 1945 - July 18, 2001) was a singer-songwriter and activist, the youngest of three daughters to a Scottish mother and a Mexican-American physicist Albert Baez. She was the younger sister of the singer and activist Joan Baez.
Fariña's father, a physicist affiliated with Stanford University and MIT, moved his family frequently due to his job assignments, working in the United States and in international locations. She benefited from dance and music lessons, and took up the guitar, joining the 1960s American folk music revival.
Fariña met novelist, musician, and composer Richard Fariña in 1963 when she was 17 years old and married him at age 18 in Paris. 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 in 1966 (on Mimi's twenty-first birthday) in a motorcycle accident, Mimi moved to San Francisco where she flourished as a singer, songwriter, model, actress, and activist. She performed at various festivals and clubs throughout the Bay Area, including the Big Sur Folk Festivals, the Matrix, and the hungry i. Mimi briefly sang for the rock group the Only Alternative and His Other Possibilities. 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 housed temporarily in Santa Rita Jail, personalizing the experience of captivity for her. In 1968, Mimi married Milan Melvin and continued to perform, sometimes recording and touring with either her sister Joan or the folksinger Tom Jans, with whom she recorded an album in 1971, entitled Take Heart. Mimi and Milan divorced in 1971.
Among the songs she has written is "In the Quiet Morning (for Janis Joplin)", which her sister recorded and released in 1972 on the album Come from the Shadows. The song is also included on a number of compilations, including Joan Baez' Greatest Hits.
By 1973, Mimi was asked to accompany her sister Joan and B.B. King when they performed for the prisoners in Sing Sing Prison. This experience, along with her arrest in 1967, led her to a desire to do more for those who are held in institutions.
In 1974, Fariña founded Bread and Roses, a nonprofit co-operative organization, designed to bring free music and entertainment to institutions: jails, prisons, hospitals, juvenile facilities, and nursing homes. Initially it was active in the San Francisco Bay area, but later, nationally. It still remains in operation, producing 500 shows per year. The organization's name came from "Bread and Roses", a 1911 poem by James Oppenheim, 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 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 U.S.-backed civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. They once set up to play on the abandoned railroad tracks outside the Concord Naval Weapons Center in California. Surrounded by military police, Fariña and Sears played a show for people protesting U.S. weapons being shipped to government troops in El Salvador.
In 1986, she took the time to record her own album Mimi Fariña 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, and others. In 2000, Bread and Roses brought performers to play at more than 500 concerts in 82 institutions.
Fariña died of neuroendocrine cancer at her home in California on July 18, 2001 at age 56. A memorial service was held on August 7 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Eulogies from Joan Baez, Paul Liberatore and Lana Severn were heard by the 1,200 people who attended.
The life of Mimi Fariña partially is chronicled in David Hajdu's book Positively 4th Street. She is referenced in the Armistead Maupin novel Tales of the City, set in San Francisco in the 1970s, and she appeared in a cameo role in the 1993 miniseries based on the novel.
She is referred to by Carol Ward (Catherine O'Hara) in the U.S. television series Six Feet Under, in which it is stated that Fariña had been involved with the production of the (fictitious) Pack Up Your Sorrows: The Mimi Fariña Story. She also was the subject of sister Joan Baez' 1969 song "Sweet Sir Galahad".
She appears in the 2012 documentary Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation