"A Plug for Mimi."
By Gerald Nachman. From San Francisco Chronicle, September 28, 1979, p. 62.

Mimi Farina--who talks on tiptoes--does her part for the energy crisis each year by pulling the plug on the world of amplified, electrified, sterofied music.

Turning off the "plugged-in sound" is a favorite cause, another being the Bread and Roses Festival, now in its third year, a benefit concert to help bring free shows to prisoners, the elderly, the ill, and all those who have to get their music off radio and records.

Mimi, bless her acoustical soul, is against anything other than the sound that is the real, natural, healthy, whole-grain, straight-from-the-spirit stuff, before the engineers get their hot little mitts on it. At the Bread and Roses Festival--which runs October 5, 6, and 7 at UC's Greek Theater--all the performers (Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Flora Purim, Joan Baez, Chic Corea, Graham Nash, Peter, Paul and Mary, Maria Muldaur and others too funky to mention) will have to check their amps at the door.

Mimi Farina--of the sylphlike form, soft green eyes and apologetic manner--isn't one's image of an impresario. "I've had no experience running an office. We sit around wondering if we're a cooperative or a corporation, and if I'm the president." She is, in a Coolidge-like way, calling up to say: "Hi. I'm Mimi Farin-ya. They said I'm supposed to start getting more aggressive for the festival."

Between festivals, Mimi despairs of the music business and, in particular, record companies: "I lost my taste for wanting to be around the music business after my last album, in '74, when the record people called me a 'marginal act.' I wanted out for a while. I think I've been around long enough not to be called 'marginal.'"

She had a CBS contract for the album, of which she says, "I was released and it wasn't." After this festival, Mimi plans to find a small label, "with a small sound," a company more interested in vocals than voltage.

"The last album I did sounded like a Broadway show when they finished with it. The engineers seemed to see me in a gold lamé gown." All of which--the mishandling, insensitivity, and quadrophonic mentality--nearly ground up Mimi in the show-biz machine.

"I started out with a partner, my husband, because I didn't want to sing alone. I know I'm self-effacing, but I just didn't think I was good at singing." When Richard Farina was killed, she was left alone with her guitar and, as she says smiling, "the sad-eyed widow bit."

"I hadn't been to college, and what I wanted to be was a dancer, but it was too late. Well, with a dead husband on your hands, there's not a lot you can do."

At 34, still dubious that her voice isn't good or big enough, Farina's almost out from under the specter of Big Sister, Joan Baez, whom she idolizes so much that, at times, she can't perform. "I generally avoid listening to her albums, because to me she's just overwhelming. After hearing her, I don't feel like picking up my guitar for days."

Mimi adds: "I've never felt so much a sense of competition as appreciation. I've always admired her, sometimes too much so. I don't enjoy hearing my own voice at all. It's embarrassing. I hear all the flaws.

Baez and she are "very close, very intense, but I don't see her all that much. I try not to compare myself to her, which is very hard. I've always wondered, Can I write songs or can't I? Are there vocal chords there or are they fake? I think I've got my own identity, something to offer, big sister or not."

Despite her dislike for the impersonality of show business--and a very un-folksinger-like hatred of traveling--Mimi Farina is quite ready for more than mini-stardom. "I'm aware I need lots of attention; I always have. I was always the baby. Joanie and I vied constantly for attention, but she's the one who pushed me into singing and taught me harmony while we did the dishes. She'd say, "If you don't sing, I won't let you back in the club."

In her sly little self-effacing way, Mimi concedes that maybe now it's her turn, smiling, "I'm quite willing to expand my ego."

Back to Articles on Mimi