Positively 4th Street

Positively 4th Street

The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña

Book - 2001
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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.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001
ISBN: 9780374281991
Branch Call Number: 780.922 Hajdu
780.922 Hajdu
Characteristics: 328 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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May 16, 2017

I take non-fiction accounts with grains of salt because of author bias, incomplete characterizations, etc. However, there are many quotes, many by the subjects themselves, that portray Baez and Dylan as selfish opportunists. Of course they were in their early 20s, when many of us are rather immature and full of ourselves.

Jun 25, 2015

I saw Inside Llewyn Davis and loved it but I did not have to see it to get a taste of that era as I lived it. Of course I was a fan of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez (still am) but I also had all Richard and Mimi Farina's albums. Mr. Hajdu's book is beautifully written and really captures the mood and experience of those years. I liked his insight into the technical aspects of the music, too such as Joan Baez's guitar work (she uses triplets to give the accompaniment forward motion) and Richard Farina use of the dulcimer-ignoring the tradition, playing his own way, with a "vigorous attack an propulsive rhythmic feeling."

Jan 07, 2014

"You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend."
If you saw "Inside Llewyn Davis" (and you should, it's great), you got a taste of the heady atmosphere of Greenwich Village in the early 60s, where every other kid with a guitar thought they could be the next Woody Guthrie. David Hajdu, whose previous book was on Billy Strayhorn, recreates that scene in this absorbing account, which traces both the rise of folk music and four key figures in the movement: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, author/musician Richard Farina and Mimi Baez Farina (Joan's sister, later married to Richard). Dylan's evolution from earnest, socially conscious folkie to mind-blowing, electrified rocker is maybe the most interesting part of the book, although Hajdu makes clear that he may have sacrificed people to achieve this. His relationship with Baez, who fully believed in music's potential as a force for change, is particularly fraught. Farina's story is less familiar, but no less interesting, sadly cut short by a motorcycle accident.


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