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  • Marian Hubler

Judy Collins Recalls Origin of “Bread and Roses” Song

In Singing Lessons: A Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope and Healing (c. 1998 p. 174) Judy Collins recalls looking for songs for an album project in 1976.

“After the death of her husband, Dick Fariña, Mimi Fariña, Joan Baez’s younger sister, had started a nonprofit organization in San Francisco called Bread & Roses, to provide free entertainment for people in homes, jails and hospitals in the Bay Area. She wrote the “Bread and Roses” melody to a poem by James Oppenheim and I recorded it, using a choir of voices in a church in New York.”

In her liner notes for the album, also titled Bread & Roses Judy said: “Songs come from many places, unexpectedly, amazingly.” She relayed how Mimi had sent her a copy of the “Bread and Roses” poem. She thought it so beautiful that she asked her to set it to music. Her sister Holly Ann then designed a Bread and Roses tapestry piece featuring a single rose and wove it using hand-dyed yarns which was then used as the art for the inside album cover.

This year commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the "Bread and Roses" poem written by James Oppenheim in 1912 about the women and children striking in Lawrence, MA for better wages and working conditions. The poem inspired Mimi Fariña to name the organization she founded in 1974 “Bread & Roses” for she believed that all people -- especially those isolated in institutions -- need music, art and roses, as well as bread, to feel fully human.

Judy Collins has long been a supporter of many nonprofit organizations including Bread & Roses. She performed a Bread & Roses institutional concert in 1985 at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco in the historic Gerald Simon Theatre.

A long-time friend of Mimi Fariña, she sang the “Bread and Roses” song with Holly Near and Maria Muldaur at Mimi’s Memorial Service on August 7, 2001 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Following the service, she released a dove on the plaza in Mimi’s memory.

Post by Marian Hubler

Photo Captions:

Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music Book Cover, Judy Collins 2011

Judy Collins Releasing A Dove for Mimi Fariña Grace Cathedral August 7, 2001 Photograph by Marian Little Utley, Courtesy Marin Independent Journal

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