Tom Costner was a friend of Richard back in his Paris days, giving this review an extra historical interest.
Making of a Myth By Tom Costner.
"It's like Love Story only the boy dies at the end."
I overheard this remark as I was leaving the theatre tent in Lenox, Massachusetts, after a performance of Long Time Coming and a Long Time Gone, based on the work of Richard Farina. The show, accurately described in the program notes as a collage, is actually not like Love Story, but I understand the remark perfectly.
Nancy Greenwald made the literate and tasteful adaptation of Farina's stories, songs and poems, and acknowledges the help of Joan Baez, Mimi Farina, and Judy Collins. Long Time Coming, roughly half music and half spoken word, was directed by Robert Greenwald.
Farina was a friend of mine. I produced his first album in London in 1963, and he wrote a good bit of his novel while living in my apartment in Paris.
I don't claim to be entirely objective about his work, especially his music. Based on my reaction to hearing his music performed by others at the Lenox Arts Center, I conclude that I have been unnecessarily harsh in my past judgments. The songs are good. They hold up well after five to 10 years--and staying power is not easy to accomplish these days.
Dramatically, it is easy to see why Farina's songs and writing appeal to today's audience, and why a Farina cult seems to have sprung up: he was an epicurean, and that is very much the philosophy of the moment. Also adding to the myth, he was cast as the fatalistic hero, healthy and handsome, struck down on the eve of fame at 29 by a senseless accident.
For several years I have consciously avoided listening to Farina's music, for the same reason Mimi declined to see Long Time Coming: it brings back painful memories. But with Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan, and Mimi, among others, recording his music, it's difficult to stay tuned out.
"Pack Up Your Sorrows," co-authored with Pauline Marden, the oldest Baez daughter, forms the musical framework of Long Time Coming. Lillian Roxon, in her Rock Encyclopedia, calls this song Dick's masterpiece. I would agree. The dramatic theme of the collage, Farina's often expressed declaration that it is important to celebrate every minute of life, works well in flashbacks accompanied by "Pack Up Your Sorrows."
Perhaps the whimsical "Hard Lovin' Loser," made famous by Judy Collins, has received more air play and celebrity than "Sorrows." The cast of Long Time Coming did a rousing ensemble version to bridge several sketches based on short stories. "Joy 'Round My Brain" (which contains that great line, "The humming birds are flying upside down") got an electric rendition from everyone. The up tunes were in general more effective than the several downs. "Now is the Time," a languid down, became especially maudlin.
Vicki Sue Robinson, 16, did an excellent job of evoking Mimi, whom she's never met. Mrs. Baez readily concurs. Richard Gere was somewhat less effective as Farina; his bouyancy was too frenetic for the real Richard, and he was over-directed. The rest of the cast were uniformly enthusiastic, believable, and deserve mention: Terry Deck, Brendan Fay, Jessica Harper, and Jane Stuart.
It will be interesting to watch what becomes of the Farina myth. Like Rupert Brooke, he seemed to be consciously leaving clues for his biographer. And like James Dean, he didn't live long enough to face the possibility of becoming a has-been.
Back to the Long Time Coming Musical page.