Richard Farina (Richard Farina)

Richard  Farina

Author, Musician, Lyricist. Born to Cuban and Irish parents, he attended Brooklyn Technical High School in New York City, New York. He received an academic scholarship to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he majored in engineering before switching to English. He dropped out in 1959 shortly before he was to graduate and returned to Manhattan, New York City, and became involved in the Greenwich Village scene. He met Carolyn Hester, a successful folk singer, and they married eighteen days later and he became her agent, touring the world with her performances while he worked on writing his novel. In September 1961 he met future folk and rock singer Bob Dylan when Hester recorded her third album at Columbia studios and they became good friends. In 1962 he traveled to Europe, where he met Mimi Baez, the teenage sister of folk singer Joan Baez. After receiving a divorce from his wife, he married the 17-year-old Mimi in April 1963. They moved to a small cabin in Carmel, California, where they composed songs with a guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. In 1964 they debuted their act as “Richard & Mimi Farina” at the Big Sur Folk Festival in California and signed a contract with Vanguard Records. They recorded their first album, “Celebrations For a Grey Day,” eventually releasing three albums, one of which was released after his death. His best-known songs are “Pack Up Your Sorrows” and “Birmingham Sunday,” the latter of which was recorded by Joan Baez and became better known after it became the theme song to Spike Lee’s film, “4 Little Girls,” a documentary about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing at Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. In 1966 he published his novel, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me,” based largely on his college experiences and travels, a comic picaresque novel that is set in the American West, in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution, and at an upstate New York university. The book has become something of a cult classic among fans of the 1960s’ counterculture literature. On April 30, 1966, two days after the publication of his novel, he attended a book-signing ceremony at the Carmel Valley Village bookstore “Thunderbird”. Later that day, while at a party to celebrate his wife Mimi’s twenty-first birthday, he and a guest took a ride on a motorcycle. At an S-turn, the driver lost control of the motorcycle, which was travelling at a high rate of speed (according to the police investigators), and it 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. The driver survived, but he was killed instantly. After his death, a collection of his final poetry and short stories, “Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone,” was released. At the time of his death, he was also producing an album for his sister-in-law, Joan Baez. She ultimately decided not to release the album, however, though two of the songs were included on his posthumous album, and another, a cover version of his “Pack up Your Sorrows”, that he co-wrote with the third Baez sister, Pauline Marden, was released as a single in 1966. Joan Baez’s song, “Sweet Sir Galahad,” that she performed at the Woodstock Festival, Woodstock, New York in the summer of 1969, commemorates his death, the grieving of his widow Mimi, and Mimi’s eventual recovery and remarriage.

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  • March, 08, 1937
  • USA
  • New York


  • April, 30, 1966
  • USA
  • California


  • Monterey City Cemetery
  • California
  • USA

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