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Richard Fariña and those not-so-gossamer threads

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

So, I mentioned Richard Fariña in an earlier post without considering that some readers who might visit this Blog might also not know who he was or why his name even comes up in a blog that deals in great part with David Schnaufer and his peers post-Fariña. If you already know who he was, then skip this post! But if Fariña's name is new to you, continue.

I have a continual fascination with connections across time and space that--if we're not paying attention--often appear to us as gossamer threads, if it all. They are not. You know how the Buddhists believe that everything and everyone are connected? They've certainly convinced me. I wrote more in depth on Fariña in Pluck than I will here, but let me tell you why in a nutshell: Richard Fariña was a significant influence on other dulcimer players before he died. He has a strong connection to Neal Hellman, for example, both in their origins in New York City and in that Neal and Sally Hellman wrote the Richard Fariña Dulcimer Book.

Cover and first page of book courtesy of Neal Hellman

Neal has a tight connection to David; they were long-time friends who often performed together. Bonnie Carol, David, Neal and the other Dulcimer Boomers were so respectful of Fariña that they closed out a very important dulcimer festival that Bonnie directed in the late seventies with Fariña's song, "Pack up Your Sorrows", a song that many others recorded including Johnny Cash, who also was an admiring friend of David a decade after that festival. Richard Fariña may never have played the dulcimer if it hadn't been for a chance meeting at a party where he met Jean Ritchie, the mother of folk music. David's early learning on the dulcimer included Jean Richie's publications, and they eventually performed together with great admiration and mutual respect later in life. Finally, there's that 6 1/2 fret. I wish I knew music theory well enough to speculate, but I don't. Yet I do wonder if David and his peers would have demonstrated the extensive range across music genres that they did (and they still have) if the dulcimer had remained a diachronic instrument?

By the way, if you'd like to see Richard's most well-known dulcimer, visit its page here at the National Museum of American history when you read about Fariña into to the dulcimer in Pluck. Watch Richard and Mimi Fariña sing one of their most well-known songs, "Pack Up Your Sorrows" below. Although more than sixty years old, it could serve as a perfect, healing anthem for today. I hope it will be a welcome introduction to the music of these two free spirits of sixties.

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