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Woodstock Wednesdays

“Pack Up Your Sorrows,” – Richard and Mimi Farina

Richard Fariña was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Cuban and Irish descent. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Technical High School. He earned an academic scholarship to Cornell University, starting as an Engineering major, but later switching to English. He was suspended for alleged participation in a student demonstration against campus regulations, and though he later resumed his status as a student, he ultimately dropped out in 1959, just before graduation.

Fariña then traveled to Europe, where he met Mimi Baez, the teenaged sister of Joan Baez in the spring of 1962. Fariña married 17-year-old Mimi in April 1963, with Thomas Pynchon as the best man. They moved to a small cabin in Carmel, California, where they composed songs with a guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. They debuted their act as “Richard & Mimi Fariña” at the Big Sur Folk Festival in 1964, shortly afterward they signed a contract with Vanguard Records. Fariña, like Dylan and others of this time, was considered to be a protest singer, and several of his songs are overtly political. Several critics have considered Fariña to be a major folk music talent of the 1960s. (“If Richard had survived that motorcycle accident, he would have easily given Dylan a run for his money.” – Ed Ward).

Fariña is also known for his novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me . The novel, based largely on his college experiences and travels, is a comic picaresque novel. Thomas Pynchon, who later dedicated his book Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) to Fariña, described Fariña’s novel as “coming on like the Hallelujah Chorus done by 200 kazoo players with perfect pitch… hilarious, chilling, sexy, profound, maniacal, beautiful and outrageous all at the same time.”

On April 30, 1966, two days after the publication of his book, Fariña attended a book-signing ceremony at a Carmel Valley Village bookstore. Later that day, while at a party to celebrate his wife Mimi’s 21st birthday, Fariña saw a guest with a motorcycle, who later gave Fariña a ride up Carmel Valley Road east toward Cachagua. At an S-turn the driver lost control. The motorcycle tipped over on the right side of the road, came back to the other side, and tore through a barbed wire fence into a field where there is now a small vineyard. The driver survived, but Fariña was killed instantly. Fariña was buried in a simple grave; its marker emblazoned with a peace sign, at Monterey City Cemetery, in Monterey, California.

Lyrics here.

More about Richard and Mimi Farina.

Pack Up Your Sorrows - The Best of Mimi and Richard Farina