The trouble with
Joan Baez as a sister
Mimi Farina and Tom Jans have only recently become known
in Britain, probably because this year's visit to the Cambridge Folk Festival is their
first appearance here.
They met in the States introduced by Mimi's sister Joan
Baez, and have been playing together for the past year.
Being the sister of someone as musically and politically
famous as Joan Baez could have its drawbacks, but Mimi is getting along well under her own
"I love Joanie and I've imitated her since I was a
tiny child. In character I'm more passive. My voice is not always similar," said
Mimi, "I haven't got a big performing voice. On the other hand I haven't consciously
tried to change to being anything else. I'm growing away from the old folk song and I
think l'm honest. I originally got my inspiration in lyrics from Chuck Berry and Joanie
has no interest in that. But people expect a lot of me - like pearls of wisdom."
In spite of Mimi's claim to sound different from Joan, her
voice is similar, although not as strong, but it has the pure Baez quality. She originally
wanted to be a dancer, and even went on tour to Japan with Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie
"'The Japanese didn't like the dancing at all, it
just didn't appeal to them. We were doing a take for the television and the idea was that
Judy sing a bit then have me dancing. They cut me out! Judy said that I had been
contracted to dance and that was why I was there, but they still cut it out, so I ended up
singing with Judy and Arlo."
Arlo finds himself in the same boat as Mimi when it comes
to having famous relations.
"Everywhere we went, people would look at me and say
'Joan Baez' and then look at Arlo and say 'Woody Guthrie!' They didn't want to hear his
own songs and the things from Alice's Restaurant. He had to sing all the old songs of his
father's. They were nice but he would have liked to do his own."
Before starting singing with Tom, Mimi danced with a small
troupe in San Francisco but it didn't work out. She still wants to use it though, and
thinks she might manage to incorporate it into her present stage act with Tom.
When the dancing didn't "work out" immediately
Mimi began her singing career and performed with her husband, Dick Farina, who had first
been married to Carolyn Hester. He was tragically killed while riding pillion passenger on
a motor bike on Mimi's 21st birthday. Mimi stopped work altogether.
When she started work again she felt she couldn't sing by
herself and went into acting.
"I joined The Theatre of the Committee. It was an
improvised acting group. I wasn't very successful. Sometimes the improvisation works
miraculously and other times it's just chaos."
Mimi's second marriage took her away from the acting,
which she is grateful for, but the marriage didn't work out and she was divorced. Now she
doesn't think she will marry again and is considering not having any children.
"Everyone needs someone to care for and I care for
Tom. He needs a lot of looking after and so do I. I was the baby of the family and I still
need a lot of attention
Tom cuts in :"I was playing by myself in clubs in
California" said Tom. "Then through various people I was introduced to Mimi. Now
we write some songs together and the best one on the album is 'Kings and Queens.' The
album is called 'Take Heart."
Like her sister, Mimi has firm political convictions and
has performed at rallies and conventions. She refuses to pay the part of her telephone tax
which goes to the war effort,and also refuses to pay the same part of her income tax. She
was watched by the authorities for a while but believes they no longer take much interest.
They pay much more attention to her brother-in-law David Harris, who served a 20 month
sentence for refusing his draft notice.
Tom has also returned his draft card, but the authorities
are quicker to pull in the ringleaders than the small fry, so he's safe enough for the
But problems aside, Mimi feels she is accomplishing
something now with her career, although she's given up ideas of fame.
"It was Dick who liked being around with Dylan and
that jet set. I live close to my family, because l don't like being lonely, but I don't
want the star thing."