Mimi Fariña was more than Joan Baez’s younger, prettier sister. By the time she died at 56, of complications related to lung cancer, on Wednesday, July 18, 2001, her life’s work Bread and Roses had been in existence for over 25 years.

Bread and Roses is the organization Mimi founded out of her living room in the early 1970’s. She had attended a B.B. King concert with her sister at Sing Sing, the infamous prison in New York’s Hudson River Valley. The show reminded her of the time she had seen Joan perform for mental patients. As the patients, some of them catatonic, began to hum and move to the music, Mimi noted to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1995:

"It was an incredible moment….It was probably the first time I saw the impact music could have on a person confined to an institution."

With $19,000 in seed money, Mimi contacted musicians she knew and began producing free concerts for the institutionalized, in both hospitals and prisons, around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Over the years Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, and Mimi's sister Joan have participated. As of last year, the Bread and Roses annual operating budget had risen to a million dollars and over 500 shows are given annually.

"Mimi filled empty souls with home and song," said her sister, Joan Baez. "She held the aged and forgotten in her light. She reminded prisoners that they were human beings with names and not just numbers."

Mimi Fariña was born Mimi Margharita Baez in Palo Alto, the third of three daughters, on April 30, 1945. Her father was a physicist who taught and consulted, and the family as a result was well-traveled.

Mimi played violin as a child, danced, and taught herself to play the guitar. Like her sister, she roamed the coffee shops and folk clubs of Cambridge, Massachusetts in the late 1950s. The two girls were rivals, no question about that: It was "like any other sibling relationship, only a little more intense," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1985. "I wanted recognition from my parents."

When the family moved to Paris, where Mimi was home-schooled, she met Richard Fariña, the half-Irish, half-Cuban beatnik singer-songwriter who was to become her husband and musical partner. She was 15.

They married in 1964, toured extensively, and released a pair of albums that are considered seminal in the amalgamation of traditional country music, folk music, and rock and roll, Reflections in a Crystal Wind and Celebrations for a Grey Day. During their time together, as well, Richard composed his prototypical hippie novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

Their incandescent love affair is chronicled in the recent book Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña by David Hajdu.

Richard Fariña was killed in a motorcycle accident on Mimi’s birthday in 1966. She moved to San Francisco where she acted for a time with the satirical theatre group The Committee. A 1971 album with her then-lover Tom Jans was released to modest reviews.

Her cancer was diagnosed in 1999, and Mimi remained quite active until March, 2000, when the 25th anniversary of Bread and Roses was celebrated. At that point, her battle with the disease took center stage in her life.

"She finally won her battle with cancer," said her sister Joan, shortly after her death.

Personally, I shall always remember Mimi and Richard Fariña, forever young, harmonizing on their classic, Pack Up Your Sorrows:

Pack Up Your Sorrows

No use crying, talking to a stranger,
Naming the sorrows you've seen.
Too many sad times, too many bad times,
And nobody knows what you mean.

Ah, but if somehow you could pack up your sorrows,
And give them all to me,
You would lose them, I know how to use them,
Give them all to me.

No use rambling, walking in the shadows,
Trailing a wandering star.
No one beside you, no one to hide you,
Nobody knows where you are.


No use gambling, running in the darkness,
Looking for a spirit that's free.
Too many wrong times, too many long times,
Nobody knows what you see.


No use roaming, lying by the roadside,
Seeking a satisfied mind.
Too many highways, too many byways,
And nobody's walking behind.

Ah, but if somehow you could pack up your sorrows,
And give them all to me,
You would lose them, I know how to use them,
Give them all to me.

—Richard and Mimi Fariña

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