Positively 4th Street - The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña

David Hajdu

Published by Blackstone Audio
ISBN 10: 0786191597 / ISBN 13: 9780786191598
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Synopsis: This is the candid, mesmerizing, and often intimate account of how four young people--Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina--gave rise to a modern-day bohemia and created the enduring sound and style of the 1960s. Even before they became lovers in 1963, Dylan and Joan Baez were seen as the reigning king and queen of folk music. But their songs and their public images grew out of their association with Joan's younger sister, Mimi, a musician in her own right, and Richard Farina, the roguish novelist Mimi married when she was seventeen. Their rise from scruffy coffeehouse folksingers to pop stars comes about through their complex interpersonal relationships, as the young Dylan courts the famous Joan to further his career, Farina woos Mimi while looking longingly on her older sister, and Farina's friend Thomas Pynchon keeps an eye on their amours from afar.

Review: David Hajdu (pronounced HAY-doo), the prizewinning author of the magisterial jazz biography Lush Life, now steam-cleans the legend of the lost folk generation in Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña. What a ripping read! It's like an invitation to the wildest party Greenwich Village ever saw. You feel swept up in the coffeehouse culture that transformed ordinary suburban kids into ragged, radiant avatars of a traditional yet bewilderingly new music. Hajdu's sociomusical analysis is as scholarly as (though less arty than) Greil Marcus's work; he deftly sketches the sources and evolving styles of his ambitious, rather calculating subjects, proving in the process that genius is not individual--it's rooted in a time and place. Hajdu says Dylan heisted many early tunes (e.g., "Maggie's Farm" from Pete Seeger's "Down on Penny's Farm"): "Dylan [told] a radio interviewer that he felt as if his music had always existed and he just wrote it down ... [in fact], much of his early work had existed as other writers' melodies, chord structures, or thematic ideas." But Dylan and company made it all their own, and Hajdu vividly evokes the scenes they made.

Positively 4th Street is very much a group portrait. When something amazing happens, Hajdu puts you right there. The unknown Baez barefoot in the rain, bedazzling the Newport Jazz Festival and becoming immortal overnight. The irresistibly irresponsible Fariña talking his folk-star wife out of shooting him dead with his own pistol. The "little spastic gnome" Dylan transmogrified into greatness onstage, bashing Joan with the searing lyrics of "She Belongs to Me." A stoned Fariña advising Dylan to cynically hitch his wagon to Joan's rising star and "start a whole new genre. Poetry set to music, but not chamber music or beatnik jazz, man... poetry you can dance to."

The book is as delectably gossipy as Vanity Fair (one of Hajdu's employers). Richard married the exceedingly young beauty Mimi and helmed their career, but he might have dumped her for big sister Joan, whose madcap humor and verbal wit harmonized with his--except that he ineptly killed himself on a motorcycle first. Bob mumblingly courted both sisters, but when he cruelly taunted the insecure Joan, Mimi yanked his hair back until he cried. The account of Bob and Joan's musical-erotic passion is first-rate music history and uproarious soap opera. Hajdu's research is prodigious--even Fariña's close chum Thomas Pynchon granted interviews--and his anecdotes are often off-the-cuff funny: "[Rock manager Albert Grossman] was easy to deal with.... It wasn't till maybe two days after you would see Albert that you'd realize your underwear had been stolen." Full disclosure: Hajdu was one of my long-ago bosses at Entertainment Weekly, but that's certainly not why I heartily endorse this book. It's scholarship with a human face, akin to "poetry you can dance to." --Tim Appelo

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Title: Positively 4th Street - The Lives and Times ...
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Book Condition: BRAND NEW

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