Richard & Mimi Fariña

Pack Up Your SorrowsCelebrations For A Grey Day
Reno NevadaCelebrations For A Grey Day
The FalconCelebrations For A Grey Day
Another CountryCelebrations For A Grey Day
A Swallow SongReflections In A Crystal Wind
Children Of DarknessReflections In A Crystal Wind
Raven GirlReflections In A Crystal Wind
Bold MarauderReflections In A Crystal Wind
Morgan The PirateMemories
The Quiet Joys Of BrotherhoodMemories


Richard & Mimi Fariña playlist



Contributor: Kasper Nijsen

He had befriended two of the greatest creative talents of his generation: Thomas Pynchon and Bob Dylan. He had married Joan´s sister, Mimi Baez, and recorded two folk-rock albums with her. Then on April 28th 1966 his first novel was published, the counter culture-classic Been Down So Long It Seems Like Up To Me. Two days later he died in a motor crash while his wife turned twenty-one.

Richard Fariña’s death at twenty-seven left behind a legacy of unlived potential. The course of his brief life is explored in Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña (2011) by David Hajdu. Despite such attention, however, Fariña’s name and music are still hardly known today, except among Pynchon enthusiasts and 60s folk completists.

That’s a pity, because there’s a timeless quality to the songs that Mimi & Richard Fariña recorded on Celebrations For A Grey Day and Reflections In A Crystal Wind (both 1965). Richard’s dylanesque delivery blends beautifully with the sweetness of Mimi’s voice, in strangely soothing melodies with hints of Appalachian folk music, but also Spanish and Eastern influences. And Richard’s lyrics are clearly the work of a poet, with obscure but compelling imagery and a dark, brooding undercurrent.

There’s a stark, dream-like beauty to songs like Another Country, while others are more clearly involved with the politics of the day. The Falcon is a frightening anti-war song based on the well-known folk song about a cuckoo. In a few powerful verses, the falcon, representing youth and innocence, is taught to stop ‘dancing around’ and to start killing. The precise meter of the lyrics shows Fariña’s background in poetry:

Her eye was on the sparrow. Her mind was on the dove,
But no one cared and no one dared to speak to her of love.
Her eyes are always hooded. Her claws are sharp as steel.
We teach her not to see too much. We teach her not to feel.

Keeping with the birds, A Swallow Song is a haunting meditation on evanescence with a wonderful melody. It used to remind me of Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Denny later covered Fariña’s The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood); the concluding series of unanswered questions strike a similarly melancholy chord:

And will the breezes blow the petals from your hand?
And will some loving ease your pain?
And will this silence drive confusion from your soul?
And will the swallows come again?

With hindsight it’s easy to hear a note of sadness and impending doom In everything Richard Fariña wrote. Yet that way we would miss the upbeat folk tune Pack Up Your Sorrows, that was covered by Johnny Cash as well as Peter, Paul and Mary (see toppermost #217). We would also miss out on one of the first folk-rock songs. Reno Nevada boasts the great Bruce Langhorne on electric guitar and was covered by Ian Matthews. It’s a weary diatribe against the world and an infectious rock tune all in one go.

But let’s finish with another one of their bird songs. Raven Girl sounds eerily like it was meant to be Richard Fariña’s note of farewell to his young wife, his fans, and the world. Though the budding songwriter, poet and novelist passed away years before his full bloom, he left behind many memories, a rather bizarre novel, and a handful of haunting songs:

Now roam away, my raven girl and roam away from me,
And find a typhoon in the sky, and find the howling sea;
And beat your wild and roving wings, and toss your raven head,
And sing a mad and joyous song, and leave me with the dead.



Richard & Mimi Fariña discography

Richard Fariña biography (Apple Music)

Mimi Fariña biography (Apple Music)

TopperPost #223

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Shields
    Mar 14, 2014

    Very interesting list, which makes me want to check out more of their music. Am also interested in the links between Farina & Paul Clayton – there is some suggestion that the former’s interest in the dulcimer was sparked by a visit he paid to the latter’s shack in Virginia…

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