Mimi Baez Fariña, sister of folk legend Joan, sang lilting harmonies and accompanied her sister in the shadows on guitar. She was seen as a better guitarist but overall weaker talent of the two sisters and I'm sure she had a bit of a complex always feeling like 'Joan's little sister' when she made folk music of her own. Richard Fariña was a poet and known personality in the East coast folk scene, determined to get a taste of fame and those beautiful Baez sisters. Its hard to know his exact motives. The book "positively 4th Street" portrays him as slightly more of a seeker of fame than anything else. He loved the women he dated (aside from Mimi there was also the rising folk star Carolyn Hester, which he promptly dropped as her career stalled and Mimi came almost 'of age'), however having a shot at the big time seemed to be a prerequisite for romance with Richard.
In the early-mid 60s, swiftly rising folk star Joan picked up a yet-undiscovered Bob Dylan, and Fariña started courting the still-not-yet-legal teenage Mimi Baez. The four were a inseperable for a time and Fariña, probably in some degree to compete with the boy-poet with guitar Dylan, decided to capitalize on his young girlfriends backing talents, and set his poetry to a rhythmic zither. Fariña added something the folk scene lacked, rhythm. He used the traditional hymns of his mother's Irish background and the passion and irresistable rhythms of his father's Cuban heritage to give the already dull, homogenous late 60s East coast folk scene a twist.
Farina died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. He was flipped from the back of a friend's motorcycle, flying around curves at 90 mph on a foggy, mountainous Carmel Valley Road in California on Mimi's birthday, right after a book signing for his book which was published just 2 days earlier. Strangely, the driver survived the incident with little injury, and Fariña was killed instantly. Earlier in the day, Mimi was upset that Richard's book signing (for his novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me) had upstaged her birthday, as Richard didn't say 'happy birthday' to her all day. Several days after the accident, Mimi finally, after days at the hospital, with police, recovering from the shock, time with family, and funeral arrangments, she returned to the Fariña's home to find a bouquet of dead flowers on the table Richard had set out for her to find after she returned home that day he died.
There is so much oddness and mystery surrounding Fariña's death. Before Richard got on the back of the motorcycle he gave Mimi his wallet and car keys-- which she thought bizarre because he was very protective of his wallet and never even let her hold it before. She also didn't know how to drive their car, and had never been given the keys by Richard. She felt the impulse to look through his wallet for the first time since he was normally so obsessively guarded about showing her his wallet. While Mimi was still sulking, thinking her birthday was forgotten, overshadowed by the book signing and completely ruined, Richard was glowing from his book signing, seemingly oblivious to Mimi's morose posture. Richard jumped on the back of the bike and sped off with his new friend.
The driver, a man named Willie Hinds, was experienced driving on that road and claimed he had driven much faster on that very road without problem quite often. He claims that to make the sharp turns, while he was leaning hard to make the turn, he felt Richard's body weight fighting to keep the bike straight, trying to sabotage the turn. Strangely, Richard was flung from the bike as they overshot a curve and died of brain laceration almost instantly, but the driver survived the crash with just a cut on his head and injury to his arms.
Looking back at Fariña's work, many of his writings he glamorized a rugged hero who faces death. At the book signing, in fact, the day of his death he signed fans' books with only one word: "Zoom!"
"When you've walked a little with death, you learn to court it, play with it, defy it if you choose, because having turned, you possess the choice. What I am saying is you musn't be afraid" --In a letter to Judy Collins
"There was...the familiar comparison with James Dean... an impulsive awareness of his physical perishability: Catch him now...Next week he may be mangled on a motorcycle." --He wrote this of Bob Dylan for an article
Two months after Fariña's crash, Dylan himself had his infamous near-death motorcycle accident driving on a similarly winding road in Woodstock, New York.
Watching their televised performance with Pete Seeger is really chilling when Seeger begins to describe where the Fariñas lived in California:
"I wonder how many of you viewing have ever seen pictures of the coast around Carmel, California. Its only in the last few years they've had roads there, because the mountains tumble down into the sea, and pine trees cling to the rocks, and the Pacific Ocean sometimes is full of fog, and it rolls up and gets up to the top of the hill and all of the sudden the fog evaporates. And when it does clear off, why, you get the most magnificent views you could imagine. You're lucky people to live there."