The Sources of Richard Fariņa's Songs
(with apologies to the artist, who lamented that "contemporary musical scholarship so often knots itself into a tight-lipped, ink-stained, old pomegranate-seedy bag.")

Birmingham Sunday

Fariņa borrowed the melody from a Scottish folk song, "I Once Loved A Lass," to write this broadside on the bombing of an African American church in Alabama on September 7, 1963. He may have learned the tune from Carolyn Hester, who recorded it in March of 1963 (after their divorce, though she probably knew the song before that), or he may have picked it up from one of Ewan MacColl's recordings of the song, on Folk Song Tradition or Classic Scots Ballads (both on the Tradition label). The lyrics were included in MacColl's and Peggy Seeger's songbook, The Singing Island (Mills Music, Inc.). "I Loved a Lass" was recorded by Pentangle a couple years later on their 1969 double LP, Sweet Child.

For "Birmingham Sunday" Fariņa retained the lyrics of one of the verses:

The men in the forest they once asked of me,
How many black berries grew in the Blue Sea.
And I asked them back with a tear in my eye,
How many dark ships in the forest?
Tom Paxton, who recently recorded this song with Anne Hills on Under American Skies (2001), says of this verse:
"It happens to be one of my favorite verses in all of traditional folk music. For me, it's all about how perceptions of good and evil change from person to person and how utterly inexplicable life can seem. An early Scottish existentialist!"


Blood Red Roses

This is a traditional sea shanty with very minor variations by Fariņa. There is dispute over the meaning of the title, referring either to the red uniform of British soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars, or the bloody spout of a harpooned whale, or the prayer of petition to Mary ("Hail, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, my Mother Mary, hail! At your feet I humbly kneel to offer you a Crown of Roses - blood red roses to remind you of the passion of your Divine Son..."). However, the phrase "blood red roses" is a stock epithet endemic to oral composition (as in "blood red wine," "fair young maid", "milk white arms", etc.), so the connection to the prayer to Mary is probably just coincidental. Bert Lloyd wrote of the song,

"For a halyard shanty this one is unusually well evolved. Stan Hugill thinks it probably started life early in the 19th century. I'd have thought later, by its shape. Its first mention in print is 1879. Old Cape Horners have been unable to suggest the meaning of the refrain. In some Napoleon ballads the British army is referred to as "the bunch of roses". More probably it's an image garbled from a scrap quoted by Hugill: "Come down with your pretty posy/Come down with your cheeks so rosy."

"Blood Red Roses" also appeared on The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem Sing of the Sea (Columbia CS 9658) in 1968, curiously the same year that Richard & Mimi's recording appeared posthumously on Memories. Pat Clancy wrote in the liner notes:
"Blood Red Roses - Never did know what was meant by "go down ye blood red roses." It may be something to do with the blood from the harpooned whale. I read the song is of Scottish origin and also that it was mentioned in a book On Board the Rocket, as being sung by the Negro crew of an American ship in 1879 to masthead the main topsail. I know I learned it in the back room of the White Horse Tavern in New York - can't remember from whom."
It is possible, then, that Pat Clancy learned it from Richard Fariņa, who also hung out at the White Horse Tavern in the late fifties and early sixties when he was living in Manhattan. But it's also possible that they both learned it from a third person at The White Horse. Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd also recorded the song for their 1960 sailing song collection, Blow Boys Blow. The arrangements of "Blood Red Roses" by Richard & Mimi, the Clancy Brothers, and Ewan MacColl are all different from each other. Here are the lyrics that once were printed on Tommy Makem's website:
Our boots and clothes are all in pawn
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
And its flamin' drafty 'round Cape Horn,
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

(chorus)
Oh, you pinks and posies,

Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.


My dear old mother said to me,
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
My dearest son, come home from sea.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

It's 'round Cape Horn we all must go
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
'Round Cape Horn in the frost and snow.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

You've got your advance, and to sea you'll go
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
To chase them whales through the frost and snow.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

It's 'round Cape Horn you've got to go,
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
For that is where them whalefish blow.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

It's growl you may, but go you must,
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
If you growl too much your head they'll bust.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

Just one more pull and that will do.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
For we're the boys to kick her through.
   Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

Celebration for a Grey Day

A medley of old dance tunes. In the liner notes of the album, Celebrations for a Grey Day, Fariņa identifies the following songs as sources: Freres Jacques, Old Joe Clark, Bonaparte's Retreat, Good King Wenceslaus, Swing and Turn Jubilee, Darling Corey, and Boil 'em Cabbage Down. Fariņa had used many of these songs for an earlier medley, "Old Joe's Dulcimer," on the album, Dick Fariņa & Eric Von Schmidt. "Swing and Turn Jubilee" was also recorded by Carolyn Hester for her self-titled Columbia album. Fariņa was present at those recording sessions. This song was copyrighted under the title "Good King Jubilee," and Richard and Mimi continued to introduce the song by that name before their first album was released. [Nitpicky Note: The song, "Celebration for a Grey Day," uses the singular, while the album uses the plural: Celebrations for a Grey Day.]


Children of Darkness

The tune is derived from the traditional song, "The Handsome Cabin Boy" which was recorded by Ewan Macoll and A.L. Lloyd for their 1960 collection of sea songs, Blow Boys Blow. Steve Benbow also recorded it for his 1964 album Steve Benbow Tells About This That & the Other (which was on the Folklore label that also released Dick Fariņa & Eric von Schmidt. Pentangle recorded the song under the name "A Maid That's Deep In Love" for their 1970 album, Cruel Sister (with Bert Jansch on dulcimer!). The lyrics take up the familiar folk theme of a woman dressing as a man to join the army (as in "Jack-a-Roe" and several others). Fariņa to some extent retains the theme by setting love against the background of a dreaded war, but his lyrics are entirely original, and a good example of how a "protest song" can transcend the timely and topical and rise to the level of poetry. Mimi often cited this ability as one of Richard's strengths as a songwriter.

As for the title of the song, Fariņa may have derived it from the play, Children of Darkness, an original tragi-comedy, by Edwin Justus Mayer, published in 1929. Or it may simply be a coincidence.


The Falcon

Fariņa coaxed this song out from the old folk tune, "The Cuckoo" (or "The Coo Coo"), which has been recorded by everyone from Jean Ritchie to Janis Joplin. He may have learned this one from Carolyn too (it's on her 1963 album), but of course he could have learned it anywhere. Richard had recorded a minimally revised version of "Cuckoo" and given it the name "The Wobble Bird" on Dick Fariņa & Eric Von Schmidt, but "The Falcon" as recorded by Richard and Mimi is a essentially a new song, and another example of his ability to write politically conscious lyrics with a romantic mood and a poetic depth. "The Falcon" is one of the few songs that Fariņa doesn't play on, but with Mimi's rich, brooding guitar accompaniment one hardly misses the dulcimer. She probably should have gotten a co-credit for this one.


Hamish

Fariņa describes this ionian instrumental as "a blend of "Banks O'Sicily" and Schroeder's Beethoven." He had performed "Banks O' Sicily" on the EP, Four for Fun, with Carolyn Hester and Rory and Alex McEwen. That song was written by Hamish Henderson in World War II, immediately after the end of a campaign, in Linguaglossa , a small village in Sicily near the volcano Etna. Hamish later said that "Banks o Sicily" was immediately taken up by Scots Troops, becoming in effect an honorary folksong, and when he returned to Scotland in 1946 the song was more well-known than he was! The song was also known by the name, "51st Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily."

Hamish had borrowed the melody from "Farewell to the Creeks," by Pipe Major James Robertson, who had written the song about his uncle's farm near the Creeks in Portnockie on the Banffshire coast during World War I.

(Incidentally, Henderson's "Banks O' Sicily" was also recorded by Bert Jansch on his 1990 album, Ornament Tree.)

The second part of "Hamish" is based on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". I'm guessing that Fariņa's reference to Schroeder in his liner notes refers to the Peanuts cartoon character's syncopated approach to the classics.


One-Way Ticket

A revved-up rendition of a standard 12-bar blues, this song evolved out of Richard's inconsequential "Xmas Island" on the Dick Fariņa & Eric von Schmidt LP (which also has the phrase "one-way ticket" in the lyrics). Richard and Mimi were still dragging along the old lyrics even after they developed the new arrangement with Mimi's driving guitar thrums, and as late as January 1965 (when the first album was recorded but not yet released), they were still playing "Xmas Island," though with a few extra lines:

"Well, There's too much noise in London and there's problems down in Tennessee,
Hey, there's too much noise in London and there's problems down in Tennessee,
I'm gonna groove with all the presents, lie me down beneath the Christmas Tree.

Well its goodbye, baby, fare thee well, I'll see you 'round some day.
I said it's goodbye baby, fare the well, I'll see you 'round some day.
I got a jingle-bellin' mama and she's gonna take me all the way."

At some point the song was given the title "Leaving California" (as it appears on the Newport version on Complete Vanguard Recordings and on a couple of versions recorded by other artists. "One Way Ticket" as we know it today bears a few traces of the old song, but is, like "The Falcon," essentially a new song, suggesting Richard's growing strengths as a songwriter and Mimi's substantial contributions.


Quiet Joys of Brotherhood

On her solo album Mimi wrote the following comments on this song:

"Dick Fariņa had a way of plagiarizing that was not only bold, but endearingly forgivable. This beautiful song from Ireland is given new life through Dick's haunting poetry."
Mimi was referring to "My Lagan Love," a modal tune from Ulster, Northern Ireland. One version of this song has the following lyrics:
Where Lagan Stream sings lullaby,
there blows a lily fair.

The twilight gleam is in her eyes,
the night is on her hair.

And like a love-sick lenanshee
she hath my heart in thrall

Nor life I own, nor liberty
for love is lord of all.

And often when the beetle's horn

Hath lulled the eve to sleep

I steal unto her shieling lorn
And thru the dorring peep.

There on thye cricket's singing stone,
She spares the bogwood fire,

And hums in sad sweet undertone
The songs of heart's desire
Her welcome, like her love for me,
Is from her heart within.

Her warm kiss is felicity
That knows no taint of sin.

And when I stir my foot to go,
'Tis leaving love and light

To feel the wind of longing blow
From out the dark of night.

[From Songs of Man, Luboff and Stracke, NY: Bonanza, 1965.]
Note: In Scotsh Gaelic a "leannan-sidhe" is a Faery Lover. This type of Faery Lover often takes a person's love and then leaves. He or she goes back where they came from, leaving the human pining for their lost love. The poor mortals in the tales of leannan sidhe often died of sorrow.

Pete Seeger was the first to release "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood." It appeared on his album God Bless the Grass in January 1966, even before the Fariņa version. Decades later he would write his own lyrics to this haunting tune and call it simply "Pete's Song." It appears on Roger McGuinn's Treasures of the Folk Den (2001), and features a recorder accompaniment reminiscent of his 1966 rendition of "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood."


Reno, Nevada

David Hajdu (p. 226) notes that this song was "built on a riff related to Herbie Hancock's song, "Watermelon Man," from his 1962 album, Takin' Off.


A Sailor's Song

The tune is derived from a version of "Foggy Dew." No recording of this song by Richard or Mimi has been released, but it was printed in The Vietnam Songbook in 1969. Fariņa may have learned "Foggy Dew" from Tommy Makem, who recorded it on his first solo album, The Songs of Tommy Makem (Tradition TLP 1044, 1961). The "Foggy Dew" that Makem recorded was written by the Rev. P. O'Neill and told of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. But this in turn was based on a traditional Irish love song of the same name.


A Swallow Song

Fariņa borrowed the melody from the Sephardic song, "Los Bibilicos", which is in turn related to the Hebrew prayer, "Tsur Mishelo Akhalnu." Fariņa probably learned "Los Bibilicos" from Carolyn Hester, as he was in the studio when she recorded the song for her 1962 self-titled album on Columbia. A similar version of "Los Bibilicos" appeared in Theodore Bikel's songbook, Folksongs and Footnotes (1960), but Carolyn says she learned it from a song-swapping group she was in. Bibilico is the Ladino version of the Hebrew word bilbil, meaning nightingale.


Tommy Makem Fantasy

Fariņa's note on their first album explains that this is "a breed of 'Little Beggarman.'" This popular song appeared in Edward Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland in 1840. Fariņa may have learned it from The Songs of Tommy Makem (see the note on "A Sailor's Song" above). The Armagh referred to in Fariņa's notes is Makem's home in County Armagh, Northern Ireland (not far from Fariņa's mother's hometown in County Tyrone). Ian and Sylvia had recorded "Little Beggarman" for their 1964 album, Northern Journey.


Tuileries

Maybe it's just my imagination, but it sounds like this song bears faint traces of Geoff Muldaur's "Mole's Moan." Which in no way detracts from Richard's dazzling dulcimer workout.


Thanks to Tom Paxton, Giuseppe Mereu, Joel Bresler, and Ian Woodward for supplying information for this page.

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