Gary James' Interview With
Mimi Farina

She was raised in a musical family, was swept up in the early '60s Folk movement. With husband Richard, Mimi Farina recorded three albums for the Vanguard label, until his untimely death in 1966, the result of a motorcycle accident. Going it alone, she recorded for A&M Records and opened concerts for people like Gordon Lightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, Phil Ochs and Hoyt Axton. In 1974, Farina founded Bread and Roses, a non-profit organization presenting free entertainment in hospitals, prisons, and convalescent homes in Marin County, California. Mimi's last album was titled "Mimi Farina, Solo". (Philo-Rounder Records). Oh, we forgot to mention, Mimi's older sister is Joan Baez.

Q - Many performers will surface at a couple of big, charitable causes once or twice a year to get the maximum amount of exposure for themselves and the charity. You have entertainers who perform all the time, everyday. How do you get the entertainers to do it?

A - Well, they are good-willed people and most of the people, many of the people we use, they're all volunteers, would be local performers.

Q - We don't hear the word "Folk" applied to any artist these days. What happened to the Folk movement? Is it just a word from the past?

A - Well, it depends on what you call Folk music. Traditional Folk songs, I think there's certainly still a network of people who perform them, sing them. I don't think you can make a very manageable living from traditional Folk music, although if you've ever been to Folk Festivals, there's a whole circuit of Folk Festivals that go on all summer long, from Canada through the United States. I think a good tradition remains there and probably through the smaller clubs of America. But there it's more likely to be combined with several nights of Rock 'n' Roll in order to keep a club alive. It's less common and throughout the past five to ten years I know I've heard there's going to be a Folk revival or it's on its way, or it's here, and I think we'll probably never see one that is the same as what happened in the late '50s, early '60s.

Q - In the early '70s we had people like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Elton John.

A - I guess Bonnie Raitt is the closest we can claim to a success, in Rhythm and Blues anyway, who has been on the traditional circuit. She certainly worked her way into Rock 'n' Roll, and works from those stages. But a lot of her material over the years has remained ethnic Black music. She sings the Blues.

Q - How do you find the time to run Bread and Roses and still pursue your own musical career?

A - I don't. (Laughs.) At the present time, my back went out and I realized as I lay there having to think about all this that I better cut back on something. For the first time in my life I've made a commitment not to sing for at least six months and see how that affects my work at Bread and Roses. I know that I'm going on tour in Germany in November. So, I know I'll spend some time preparing for that. In the Fall I'll be learning new material and working up a show. I don't know how that will work and what I'll have to cut back then. But, at this time Bread and Roses is definitely in need of all the attention it can get just to sustain. So, I decided that's where I wanted to put all my energy right now.

Q - Is there any rivalry between yourself and your sister? We just have to ask that question.

A - Naah. (Laughs.) I think it would sort of be out of the question to think otherwise. But, I would say over the years we learned better and better how to manage our sibling feelings.

Q - Probably the most difficult question to all, if your husband hadn't died, where do you think you would be today? How would things have been different for you? Do you have any idea?

A - I have no idea, but of course I have always fantasized that we would have been able to maintain the marriage and the career. He was so multi-talented that my guess is we would have explored many different art forms. When he died, he had written a play that I was to be in. He included me in a lot of his creative works, so I suspect that some other doors might've opened for me that haven't, because of my being alone and not being that aggressive, so I say. Some people think I'm quite aggressive.

A Website Dedicated To The Memory Of Richard and Mimi Farina:

Note: Mimi Farina died of neuroendocrine cancer on July 18, 2001 at the age of 56.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.