Novelist and folk singer Richard Fariña is the missing link (or “Kevin Bacon” if you prefer) connecting author Thomas Pynchon (the best man at Fariña’s wedding to Mimi Baez) and Bob Dylan. Some have called Fariña an out-sized influence on the young Dylan, who allegedly aped the older man’s world-weary bohemian attitudes and persona. (It was also Fariña who allegedly suggested to Dylan that he hitch his horse to a then-rising star Joan Baez (his sister-in-law), ditch the folk thing, and start a new genre of music: poetry that people could dance to).
Richard and Mimi Fariña (along with Bruce Langhorne on tambourine), recorded this vaguely Near East-sounding dulcimer drone on their 1963 album Celebrations for a Grey Day, as a tribute to Pynchon’s first novel, V. Fariña said of the song, which seems like it was inspired by the Alexandria of V‘s chapter five, in the liner notes:
“Call it an East-West dreamsong in the Underground Mode for Tom Pynchon and Benny Profane. The literary listener will no doubt find clues to the geographical co-ordinates of Vheissu, the maternal antecedents of the younger Stencil, and a three-dimensional counter-part of Botticelli’s Venus on the half-shell. May they hang again on a western wall.”
Fariña, whose claim to fame was the “road” novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, died tragically on April 30, 1966, in a motorcycle accident. It was his wife’s 21st birthday. Fariña was just 29. Thomas Pynchon later dedicated his classic 1973 novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, to Richard Fariña.
Thank you, Elixir Sue!