Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fari?a and Richard Fari?a / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 88%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (30) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $3.99   
  • Used (20) from $1.99   


Tenth Anniversary Edition

The story of how four young bohemians on the make - Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Baez, and Richard Farina - converged in Greenwich Village, fell into love, and invented a sound and a style that are one of the most lasting legacies of the 1960s

When Bob Dylan, age twenty-five, wrecked his motorcycle on the side of a road near Woodstock in 1966 and dropped out of the public eye, he was recognized as a genius, a youth idol, and the authentic voice of the counterculture: and Greenwich Village, where he first made his mark as a protest singer with an acid wit and a barbwire throat, was unquestionably the center of youth culture.

So embedded are Dylan and the Village in the legend of the Sixties—one of the most powerful legends we have these days—that it is easy to forget how it all came about. In Positively Fourth Street, David Hajdu, whose 1995 biography of jazz composer Billy Strayhorn was the best and most popular music book in many seasons, tells the story of the emergence of folk music from cult practice to popular and enduring art form as the story of a colorful foursome: not only Dylan but his part-time lover Joan Baez - the first voice of the new generation; her sister Mimi - beautiful, haunted, and an artist in her own right; and her husband Richard Farina, a comic novelist (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me) who invented the worldliwise bohemian persona that Dylan adopted—some say stole—and made as his own.

The story begins in the plain Baez split-level house in a Boston suburb, moves to the Cambridge folk scene, Cornell University (where Farina ran with Thomas Pynchon), and the University of Minnesota (where Robert Zimmerman christened himself Bob Dylan and swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic and a harmonica rack) before the four protagonists converge in New York.

Based on extensive new interviews and full of surprising revelations, Positively Fourth Street is that rare book with a new story to tell about the 1960s. It is, in a sense, a book about the Sixties before they were the Sixties—about how the decade and all that it is now associated with it were created in a fit of collective inspiration, with an energy and creativity that David Hajdu captures on the page as if for the first time.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Confirmed baby boomers will know instantly that this book borrows its title from a 1965 Bob Dylan song. The book covers the same combustible period, a time when Dylan snapped into the lives of other future counterculture heroes. Billy Strayhorn biographer David Hadju threads his narrative through the heady interactions of Dylan, singer Joan Baez, her mysterious bohemian sister, Mimi, and moody novelist Richard Fariña. Around the fringes of this engaging icon bio are Greenwich Village eccentrics and a California scribbler named Tom Pynchon.
From the Publisher
“A hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology, and pop culture history.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This ambitious four-headed biographical narrative...vividly re-creates the folk era.”—Terrence Rafferty, GQ

“In a teetering stack of Dylan biographies and commentaries, [this is] the one new publication of distinction and clarity.”—David Remnick, The New Yorker

New York Times
A hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology and pop cultural history...[David Hajdu]...has discovered that within every movement, however pure, there is a healthy whiff of soap opera to be found.
Janet Maslin
[With this] hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology and pop cultural history, it is as if David Hajdu has struck a tuning fork and summoned the spirit of the folk-singing 1960's all over again.
New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sometimes, gifted people intersect at the perfect moment and spark a cultural movement. According to acclaimed biographer Hajdu (Lush Life), Joan and Mimi Baez, Dylan and Fariña were of that brand of fated genius, and via romantic and creative trysts, they invented 1960s folk and its initially maligned offshoot, folk rock. But their convergence hardly emblematizes the free-loving media version of the 1960s. Egos especially Joan Baez's and Dylan's clashed, jealousies flared, romance was strategic. Hajdu does not dwell on Dylan's thoughtless, well-documented breakup with Joan Baez after riding to fame on her flowing skirts. Instead, he spotlights Joan's younger sister, Mimi, a skilled guitarist in her own right, and her husband, novelist-musician Fariña. After divorcing leading folkster Carolyn Hester, the disarmingly groovy Fariña captivated teenage Mimi via love letters and, but for his untimely death, might have pursued Joan. Though Fariña comes off as more opportunistic than Dylan, Hajdu compellingly asserts that Fariña, not Dylan, invented folk rock and provided fodder for Dylan's trademark sensibilities. Hajdu provides a skillfully wrought, honest portrait that neither sentimentalizes nor slams the countercultural heyday. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With the explosive early 1960s folk revival as backdrop, Hajdu (Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn) entertainingly recounts this downright Shakespearean tale of Folk Queen Joan Baez falling for the Ass, Bob Dylan. Meanwhile, Joan's younger sister, Mimi, succumbs to the spell of the charming writer Richard Fariña, and the two become a highly regarded folk-singing duo in their own right. Little does Mimi suspect that she is a convenient way for Richard to get closer to Joan. Tragedy strikes the foursome as Dylan dumps Baez once his fame eclipses hers, and Fariña is killed in a motorcycle accident on Mimi's 21st birthday, two days after the publication of his first novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. Though Dylan and Baez will sell this book, the real star is the colorful but controlling rogue, Fariña, whose star was swiftly rising at the time of his death. Hajdu pulled off a coup in winning the participation of reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon, who was a close friend of Fariña's. Recommended for Dylan fans and enthusiasts of the 1960s folk revival. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/10.]--Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In Hajdu's biography of an art form, in the early 1960s the lives of sisters Joan and Mimi Baez intersected with those of Bob Dylan and the novelist Richard Farina; in the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village, the four charismatic artists and activists drew in a generation as they helped turn folk music from a quaint tradition into the soundtrack of their era. Hajdu, who is also a biographer of jazzman Billy Strayhorn, conducted several hundred new interviews to build his account of the quartet's complex relationships and rise to pop stardom. In a sad footnote, Mimi (who married Richard Farina at age 17) died of cancer in July 2001, not long after Hajdu's book was published. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Overweening ambition drives this insightful story of the 1950s folk music revival that anticipates the arrival of the 1960s counterculture. By the end of the 1950s, American folk music (by such performers as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie) had established a small but loyal following. Entertainment Weekly editor Hajdu (Lush Life) believes that young people became interested in folk because of "its antihero mythos—a sense of the music as the property of outcasts." College students who frequented the coffeehouses where folk began to flourish "were seeking something anti-intellectual" and would-be performers (including the Baez sisters, Richard Fariña, and Bob Dylan) flocked to the music because of its simple (and anti-commercial) approach. The charismatic Fariña was a promising writer who married folk singer Carolyn Hester and tried to hitch his wagon to her star (with little success), whereas Joan Baez (the "virgin princess") haunted the Greenwich Village coffeehouses on 4th Street, shamelessly stole other singers' material, and went on to fame. Mimi Baez coveted—and never came anywhere near—her sister Joan's success. And Dylan (who came to New York in search of direction and found his model in Woody Guthrie) got his big break from Joan, who fell in love with him. Although the naked ambition of each these characters presents an unedifying spectacle throughout, Hadju saves his censure for Dylan, writing that the "irony of Robert Zimmerman's metamorphosis into Bob Dylan lies in the application of so much elusion and artifice in the name of truth and authenticity." Even so, Dylan appears more deluded than mendacious—a man who hid his identity because he was more confused than his audience about who he was. A strong and vivid portrait of some remarkable characters—and one that manages against the odds to get to the people behind the egos.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312680695
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 353,073
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 5.52 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

David Hajdu

David Hajdu's first book, Lush Life, won the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and is being adapted for a feature film. Hajdu lives in New York City and writes for The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and The New York Review of Books.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


IN THE WINTER OF 1949, when Joan and Mimi Baez were little girls, their aunt Tia moved in with them. She came through the chimney and brought music and ice cream in her carpetbag, or it seemed that way to them at the time.

Joan, who was eight, and Mimi, who was four, shared a bedroom on the second floor of the Baez family’s clapboard house in Menlo Park, California, near Stanford University, where their father, Dr. Albert Baez, thirty-seven, worked in a cold war program to teach physics to military engineers in training. Their older sister, Pauline, ten, kept to herself in her own small room, a converted closet, and their mother, thirty-six, for whom Joan was named, tended to the house while listening to classical music on 78-rpm records a salesman picked out for her. The female contingent of the family submitted reluctantly to rooming-house life until the elder Joan’s sister Tia, thirty-nine, joined them, freshly divorced for unimaginably adult reasons never to be discussed.

Sisterhood understitched the Baez household. The first of Joan and Albert’s children had been named for Tia, whose proper name was Pauline Bridge Henderson (Tia meaning “aunt” in Spanish, Albert’s native language), just as the third born had been named for their father’s only sister, Margarita; Mimi was her middle name, which everybody in the family except Albert Baez preferred. Tia was fair and soft, with long, curly chestnut hair and the free-spirited poise of an artist’s model; she somehow always seemed as if she would prefer to be nude and gazed upon. This may have come from experience: Tia had married a painter, traveled through Europe with him, studied dance with Martha Graham, written poetry…she had, that is, lived all her era’s romantic feminine dreams. Sipping sherry in the kitchen of the boarding house, Tia would regale her sister and the girls—sometimes all three, more often only Joan and Mimi, since Pauline tended to play alone—with stories of her travels and readings from her notebooks. To Big Joan, the relief, the novelty, and the vicarious pleasures that Tia provided nearly outweighed the envy she incited. A strong, handsome woman, the former Joan Bridge had married young and with ambivalence; feeling sinful and confused for having loved another woman, she yielded to the overtures of a gentle Mexican academic who said he would accept her as she was. In the decade to follow, she fixed her resources on rearing children. “You could feel the house lighten up when Tia came in,” Mimi would recall. “But Tia was not a worker, and so Mother was real resentful that Tia’s role was to come around and be the clown, get everyone laughing and basically not hold her end up. Mother carried buckets of stuff, and Tia told stories—and we loved her, because she liked to have fun, and she would tell us stories that seemed really naughty, and she went out on dates with men.”

For several years, Tia kept company with a fellow living in the boardinghouse, Rugger, a bit of a roustabout with a child’s sense of abandon that delighted the Baez girls. “He’d take my sister and Joanie and Mimi out together, and they’d have a glorious time,” said Big Joan. “He’d buy them all kinds of candy and ice cream, and he’d take them to double features. He’d ruin them! Their father was furious—‘Why do they have to go to a double feature? Isn’t one movie enough?’ I couldn’t explain it to him. The girls were still girls—they were supposed to have fun. He was beside himself. He was terribly jealous, and so was I.” Evidently picking up glimmers of information from snatches of grown-up talk, Joan and Mimi seemed troubled by the family conflict over Rugger. “The girls were very upset that the adults were at odds,” Tia remembered. “They thought they were doing something wrong because they were happy, or Rugger and I were doing something wrong because we were in love and enjoying it. I was afraid they were getting the impression that men and sisters don’t mix, and I guess they did. But Mimi and Joanie were fine, as long as they got the same kind of ice cream and the scoops were the same size.”

As they grew, Joan and Mimi drew closer, and their older sister turned inward. “When Mimi was very young, Pauline and I hated her,” Joan remembered. “Mimi was the youngest and the prettiest, so Pauline and I conspired against her. That didn’t last long. Pauline was a loner.” When she was eleven, Pauline built a tree house and spent much of her time between school and sleep alone there; when Joan asked if she could play with her, Pauline replied, “Sure, you can be the daddy. Go to work. Bye!” At mealtime Pauline would construct a barricade of cereal boxes around her place setting. “After Pauline built that tree house, she never really came out,” said their mother. “Mimi and Joanie discovered each other. They were very different, like my sister and me in a way, but very tight, like us.” Because young Joan could draw (mainly clever, skillful sketches of her family, her classmates, and herself), she was considered the artistic one. Joan also had a quick, sassy wit and a knack for imitating voices—“Joanie was so funny,” said Mimi, “she made you laugh so hard you almost didn’t mind that it was at your own expense.” A lovely girl with deep liquid brown eyes and an easy, disarming smile, Joan thought of herself as unattractive; surgery to remove a benign tumor had left a tiny scar on her torso that she saw as monstrous. She endured schoolyard taunts because of her Mexican surname and dark skin, and she coveted her little sister’s fairer, delicate beauty. “Mimi was the pretty one,” said Dr. Baez. “She looked like an angel. All three of my girls, they all were beautiful—Pauline, Joan, too—beautiful. But not like Mimi.” She had physical confidence and poise; under Tia’s patronage, Mimi had been studying dance since the age of five. She struggled with books, however, because she was an undiagnosed dyslexic, and her schoolwork suffered. Mimi envied her sister Joan’s way with words and her ease in adult company. “Joan was very jealous of Mimi’s looks. It was very hard for Joan. Joan always thought she was ugly,” said their mother. “I think Mimi was just as jealous of Joan…[because] Joan was so talented. They were both talented, but—I don’t know…I just know they loved each other so much, I thought sometimes they’d kill each other.” The girls held hands constantly; once as they were walking, Mimi squeezed so tightly that her fingernails dug into her sister’s palm, and blood smeared onto the sides of their dresses.

Encouraged by one of Albert’s university friends, the Baez family started attending Quaker meetings, and they always brought the girls, all of whom endured the sessions dutifully and absorbed elements of the Quaker ideals that they understood and liked. “It was something we had to do, and it was a chore,” Mimi would remember. “But all three of us seemed to get the basic idea that peace was a good thing. We basically made faces at each other [at the meetings].” Still, one speaker succeeded in capturing Joan’s attention: a small, frail monkish fellow named Ira Sandperl. Moved by his lecture on pacifism, Joan asked him for advice in applying his principles to her life. “I asked him how I could learn to get along with my sister Mimi,” Joan recalled. “She was very beautiful, and we fought all the time. It seemed so endless and unkind. Ira said to pretend that it was the last hour of her life, as, he pointed out, it might well be. So I tried out his plan. Mimi reacted strangely at first, the way anyone does when a blueprint is switched on him without his being consulted. I learned to look at her, and as a result, to see her for the first time. I began to love her.”

All three girls showed interest in music. Pauline had taken some piano lessons and had practiced regularly but froze when it came to playing for her teacher. She and Joan (who had also studied piano briefly) both learned how to play the ukulele from a Stanford colleague of Albert Baez, Paul Kirkpatrick. “He taught Joanie and me the same thing on that ukulele the same day,” remembered Pauline. “I became so concerned in doing my little three chords correctly, I didn’t want anybody to hear me at all until I had it perfect. And Joanie picked up the thing and just started strumming away, and if the chords weren’t quite right, it didn’t matter—she played it for the people right off, you know. And then she just went on playing, because everybody clapped and cheered and said, ‘Oh, isn’t it great!’ And me, I kept practicing my three little chords until they were perfect. I guess they didn’t think I was very good, because they didn’t even hear me. But it was like that. Joan was ‘Ta-da!’—center stage.” During one of these living-room performances, Joan decided to sing, too. “Singing in the house while I played the ukulele—that was the first time I remember people saying, ‘Oh, you have a very nice voice,’” Joan recalled. Mimi scored high on a third-grade music aptitude test and took violin lessons for several years. “I did very well, but I was really more interested in singing,” said Mimi. “But that was more of Joanie’s thing.”

Late in the spring of 1954, when Joan and Mimi were thirteen and nine, Tia and Rugger took them to a concert in the gym of Palo Alto High School. It was an informal program of songs and talk to raise funds for the California Democratic Party, featuring Pete Seeger. Tia considered herself politically aware and liberal, like Big Joan and Albert, and she wanted Joan and Mimi to hear Seeger. “I liked him very much,” Tia said. “I thought if I still had some influence on those girls, they should hear something they weren’t going to hear on the radio.” Indeed, Seeger could not be found on any of the country’s commercial stations, nor on records from the major labels, in concert halls, or in nightclubs; he had been blacklisted in 1952 for his association with Communism. Along with Woody Guthrie and Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter and folklorist Alan Lomax, Seeger had been a central figure in the boomlet of folk-style recordings and performances between the Depression years and the beginning of the Second World War. By 1950 Seeger, as a member of the Weavers (along with singer-guitarist Fred Hellerman and singers Lee Hays and Ronnie Gilbert), had helped break folk into the pop mainstream with the quartet’s hit records of “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Wimoweh,” and Leadbelly’s composition “Goodnight, Irene,” among others. The accomplishment carried irony for a socialist such as Seeger—a demonstration of his music’s appeal to the masses through commercial means that brought sizable profits to the record industry, as well as to the Weavers. With the rise of the cold war and the intensification of anti-Communist sentiment in the early 1950s, Seeger found himself liberated from the irony of mass popularity and economic success; he was no longer welcome in most concert halls and nightclubs and returned to performing in community centers, schools, and private clubs for modest sums, usually under the auspices of organizations associated with the left. At Palo Alto High School, the political component of his presentation was one of implication. “It seemed to me that I could make a point if I made it gently,” Seeger explained. “I suppose you could say what I was doing was a cultural guerrilla tactic. I sang songs about people from all walks of life, and I talked about how anyone from any walk of life could sing this kind of song himself. What I was getting at was the idea of flip-flopping the power structure, so every individual had some power, rather than all the power being centered on a few organizations or just one. I said, ‘Sing with me. Sing by yourself. Make your own music. Pick up a guitar, or just sing a cappella. We don’t need professional singers. We don’t need stars. You can sing. Join me now….”

The idea surely ran counter to the prevailing cultural tenets of glamour and professionalism: Down with the aristocracy of the Hit Parade, up with egalitarian amateurism. A message with appeal to the disenfranchised, the disconnected, and the tone deaf alike, Seeger’s call for musical insurgency touched both Joan and Mimi Baez, as it would connect with many other young people who saw him perform during the 1950s. “Joan told me later that it was after that concert that she looked herself in the mirror and said, ‘I can be a singer, too,’” Seeger recalled.

“I don’t remember the actual concert anymore,” Joan would say. “All I know is that was a major moment for me.” (Mimi would not remember any of it.)

“I remember,” said Tia. “Mimi and Joan both announced that they decided they wanted to sing. Mimi was not exactly a big out-there, out-in-front girl like Joan. But she really loved music. Pete’s message was, you know, ‘That’s okay. You don’t have to be a star to sing. Sing for yourself—that’s what matters.’

“Joan came away with something a little bit different…‘Wow, maybe you don’t have to look like a movie queen, and you can still be a star. I can sing. So I can go up there like Pete Seeger, and everybody will like me.’

“And I thought, ‘Now, how different can two girls be and want to do the same thing?’”

POSITIVELY 4TH STREET Copyright © 2001 by David Hajdu.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 24, 2014

    Fascinating read

    This is a very interesting look at an important time in music. It's very well written, well researched, and offers a lot of information that enriches one's knowledge and feel for the places and times. Unfortunately, it seems that whenever I read a book about someone I admire greatly, I am disappointed that the person turns out not to be a wonderful human being. Mimi Farina came off well. I'll leave it at that.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)