NOT US, SAY
TOM JANS & MIMI FARINA
On May 1st. 1966, Richard Farina, novelist, poet and
folk singer was returning from a party celebrating the publication of
his novel Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up To Me when he was
thrown from the pillion seat of the motorcycle he was riding on, and was
killed. Mimi, Richard’s wife and folk singer partner, had celebrated her
21st birthday on the same day. a fact that must have accentuated the
effect of the tragedy.
Richard and Mimi Farina were one of the more
influential folk singing does of the sixties. In a recent interview,
Keith Richard acknowledged that Brian Jones has been strongly influenced
by Richard Farina’s dulcimer playing - some of which as evident on the
Stones’ Lady Jane. Richard also made an album in the basement of
Dobell’s record shop along with Bob Dylan, alias Blind Boy Grunt, and
Eric Von Schmitt. All this was well before the name Dylan means anything
more than a tousle-headed American boy who played for peanuts in the
folk clubs of London. ‘Richard knew them both from Now York,’ remembered
Mimi. They were all travelling and met up in London. Mimi Farina was
born Mimi Baez-sister of Joan. ‘I identified with her as I was a younger
sister,’ said Mimi. ‘I copy-catted her as a singer I suppose.’ Mimi and
Joan’s Father worked for UNESCO and that meant most of their family
life was spent on the continent. It was while living in Paris and
studying dancing that Mimi met travelling singer Richard Farina. One
story of Richard is that by day he posed as a blind street singer! By
night he was an artist, poet, songwriter and working on his novel
Been Down So Long.
Richard and Mimi married and began work as a folk
due. They are seen together briefly in the film Festival and have a few
albums, out on the Vanguard label which are now deleted. He is on their
album Memories that Joan Baez sings two of Richard’s songs. Even
now, five years after his death. Richard’s novel is one of the most
popular books among American students, and his albums are still revered
After Richard’s death Mimi joined a theatre troupe,
remarried, played at being a housewife for two years and then divorced.
Following this she started writing her own songs. Mimi describes her
songs as being, “To share thoughts and things I feel are important. I
hope to share a good feeling that I am capable of creating. Mimi sees
that the life in general as in chaos. The whole thing is a mess and
we’re all responsible.” The positive hope that Mimi wants to communicate
through her songs is that ‘life is a miracle and has to be respected’.
Mimi’s original ambition was to be dancer but she
found that it wasn’t the best medium through which to communicate ideas.
‘Words are more explicit’ she said. Until she met Richard she had done
all her learning through the experiences which life provided, but he
was able to lead her into the world of literature and she discovered
another realm in which she could learn. Tom Jans had been a folk singer
Doing the round of coffee houses in the States when he was introduced
to Mimi by her sister Joan,. Mimi was at that time was at that time
wanting to return to the musical world and had in her mind the idea of
joining a band. However the meeting with Mr Jans seemed to supply an
answer to her needs.
Tom is very much like Richard in many ways. He too
is a poet, guitarist, singer and songwriter. He has had his poems
printed in some east coast magazines and again like Richard he has ideas
for a novel. The novel will be about California but will in fact use
this situation as a ‘microcosm of the world’ as Tom explained it.
Although both Tom and Mimi have been on the folk
scene for a number of years neither of them have the desire to join any
of the jet-set folkies such as surround Crosby, McGuinn, James Taylor
and Joni Mitchell. ‘Most of the musicians we know’, said Tom, ‘are not
into a big scene. The music is the most important thing to them.’ Having
been associated with people such as Dylan I wondered what Mimi thought
of the current tendency for folk singers to experiment with rock music
as soon as they became successful. ‘If you play every night it’s much
more exciting if you vary with guitar and drums. Expanding and changing.
A single guitar and voice by the fireside is ok for ever but not on
stage.’ Mimi feels that ‘some of the folk singers out of necessity went
into rock bands.
So with their guitars and Voices, Mimi and Tom are
inviting us to their fireside. An album Take Heart has just been
released by A&M and Tom and Mimi have played three dates on the recent
tour of Britain by Cat Stevens. The music they play is beauty-folk for
want of a description and I only hope that they receive the exposure
that they need.
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