Tom Jans
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JET-SET FOLKIES:
NOT US, S
AY
TOM JANS & MIMI FARINA

Beat Instrumental
October 1971

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 among folkies. 

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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photo credit: A&M

This page updated August 2004 by Geoff
GMGough@clara.net