This is a nervous little decade we’re playing with.—
Remembering Richard Fariña, counterculture songwriter and author who wrote the cult classic of the 1960s, ‘Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.’
On April 30, 1966, two days after the publication of his first novel, Richard Fariña attended a book-signing ceremony at a bookstore in Carmel, California.
Later that day, he was at a party to celebrate the twenty-first birthday of his wife Mimi Baez Fariña, a folksinger-activist and sister of Joan Baez.
One of the guests at the party had a motorcycle that caught Fariña’s eye and the newly-minted author asked the guy to take him for a ride.
The rode up winding Carmel Valley Road, hitting a speed of 90 miles an hour (140 km). At an S-curve in the road, the driver lost control and the motorcycle crashed through a barbed wire fence into a field.
Fariña was killed instantly. The driver survived.
The Brooklyn-born Fariña drifted into the counterculture scene in Greenwich Village, hanging out with a little known singer named Bob Dylan.
He met 18-year-old Mimi Baez on a trip to Europe and they got married in Paris. Back in the U.S., they lived in a small cabin in Carmel and composed songs. They performed as Richard & Mimi Fariña at the Big Sur Folk Festival and signed a contract with a record company.
Fariña’s novel, a counterculture classic based on his college days and travels, chronicles the comic adventures of a modern-day Odysseus, Gnossos Pappadopoulis, as he travels from an Upstate New York College to the American West and to Cuba during the Cuban Revolution.
The reclusive writer Thomas Pynchon, now 83, described the novel as “hilarious, chilling, sexy, profound, maniacal, beautiful, and outrageous.”
Fariña was buried in a simple grave in the city cemetery in Monterey, California, identified only by a marker with his name, dates and a peace sign.
Mimi Baez Fariña died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 56.