Folk singer and charitable activist Mimi Farina died at her home in California on July 18th after a two-year battle with cancer; she was fifty-six.
Born Margarita Mimi Baez on April 30, 1945, Farina was the younger sister of folk singer Joan Baez. In 1963 she married novelist/songwriter Richard Farina (who penned the novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me) and the couple began working together as a musical duo. They released two highly regarded albums — Celebrations for a Grey Day in 1965 and Reflections in a Crystal Wind in 1966 — before Richard died in a motorcycle accident in 1966.
After the death of her husband, Farina recorded only sporadically, turning her attention to social activism. In 1974 she began the Bread and Roses charity in San Francisco, which sponsored concerts in hospitals, senior centers, prisons and centers for abused children with the mission statement of “using the power of performing arts to uplift the human spirit.” The organization enlisted first-rate musical talent — including her sister, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson and numerous others — to perform hundreds of shows each year for more than twenty-five years, with Farina serving as its executive director.
“Mimi filled empty souls with hope and song,” Baez said in a statement of her sister’s life and work. “She held the aged and forgotten in her light. She reminded prisoners that they were human beings with names and not just numbers.”
Bread and Roses occupied most of Farina’s later years, but she took time to record an album, Solo, in 1985. The lives of Farina, her husband, sister and Bob Dylan in the mid-Sixties were recently chronicled in David Hadju’s recent book, Positively 4th Street.