Richard Farina

July 5, 2016

 

As I am learning more and more about the mountain dulcimer in my research, I have read about people who have had a great influence on the instrument...one such person is Richard Fariña.

 

He was born of an Irish mother and Cuban father in March 8, 1937. Farina was a folk singer, writer and poet. One of the most important moments in Farina’s life was when he visited Kentucky-born folksinger Jean Ritchie at a party in New York City. He became fascinated with her dulcimer. Charmed by the eerie sound of the folk instrument, he took lessons from Paul Clayton and A.W. Jeffries when he moved to Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

He married Mimi Baez (Joan Boaz’s little sister). He and Mimi began playing together and developed the unique guitar-dulcimer duet that made them absolutely unique in the folk music world. They debuted at the Big Sur Folk Festival in 1964.

 

Neal Hellman compiled and wrote of a book of arrangements based on his hero, Richard Farina (The Richard Fariña Dulcimer Book). Neal states in his blog called “Neal’s Tales” Liberating Richard:

“Mimi and Richard composed music together on guitar and dulcimer, and by 1964 they were becoming a well-known folk duo. They recorded two wonderfully inspired and well-produced recordings for Vanguard Records—Celebrations for A Gray Day (April 1965) and Reflections in a Crystal Wind (December 1965). Their music consisted of Richard’s songs of political and social commentary as well as instrumentals he created for the mountain dulcimer. Mimi added her soprano harmony and played guitar and autoharp. They reached their peak at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, where even a massive thunderstorm could not keep the crowds from dancing to their music, all in various forms of undress. He took the dulcimer out of the Appalachians and made it accessible to city kids like me. To anyone over forty who plays the dulcimer, Richard Fariña has earned patriarchal status.”

 

Pete Seeger performed with the couple on the Rainbow Quest: Pete clearly admired Richard and Mimi's music, and even predicted that their synthesis of various eclectic styles would be influential: "This is going to be happening all around the world." And indeed, a year or two later, popular music explored a bewildering array of styles (though Richard and Mimi received scarcely any credit for helping to initiate this trend). Pete ended the show by saying, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

 

I recommend you watch the video of Richard and Mimi on YouTube titled “Mimi and Richard Fariña Bold Marauder to see his unique style. He was a trendsetter for other mountain dulcimer players.

 

Your short pickin’ vp,

Denny

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