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Marian's Did You Know...Mimi's Performance at Sing Sing Prison Inspired Her to Start Bread & Roses

Did you know...

That our founder, the late Mimi Fariña, was inspired to start Bread & Roses after she sang in a concert with her sister Joan Baez at New York’s notorious Sing Sing Prison in 1972 with B.B. King as headliner.

As seen in a clip from the concert by documentary film-maker David Hoffman, who happened at the time to also be the activity director at the prison, Joan sang Bob Dylan’s 1967 anthem I Shall Be Released then invited Mimi up to join her for a stirring rendition of Viva Mi Patria Bolivia in Spanish. The faces of the inmates in the audience lend a rarely seen humanistic sensitivity to the film.

An article about the concertB.B. King Plays Live at Sing Sing Prison in One of His Greatest Performances (1972) on states that the concert had an impact on the performers as well as the inmates and led Mimi to be inspired afterwards to start Bread & Roses.

NY Daily News called it one of the greatest moments in live entertainment. “There was a riot of music, emotion, enthusiasm and good feelings. What a day. What a concert!” Jerry Oster, New York Daily News

There was also an inmate play and poetry on the bill that day in Sing Sing Prison. To this day, we continue our work in the spirit of Mimi’s legacy. Although a small percentage of our current program service is for adult detention audiences, performers like Kurt Huget and Tony Saunders go into San Quentin State Prison on behalf of Bread & Roses to lead music workshops and mentor inmate bands.

B.B. King circled back to perform at Bread & Roses 1980 Festival of Music at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Iconic folksinger Tom Rush who was also on the bill that day fondly remembered that one of his best music memories was being backstage and overhearing B.B. King teach Joni Mitchell The Thrill Is Gone.

Joan Baez continues to support our organization, along with her son, the percussionist Gabe Harris, and her granddaughter Jasmine Harris, a singer and multi-instrumentalist who is now performing concerts for Bread & Roses institutional audiences.

Joan continues to inspire others “for strength and courage” with a live stream posted March 26 on Facebook of the John Lennon ballad Imagine. We are so grateful for all the artists who inspire our audiences on a daily basis and who are continuing to inspire our shared global community in a time of isolation.

By Marian Hubler, Communications Manager/Producer

Photo/Video Credits:

1) Clip from David Hoffman's documentary of Joan and Mimi performing at Sing Sing Prison.

2) Joni Mitchell with BB King at the Greek Theater Festival of Music in 1980. Photo by Jon Sievert.

3) Joan Baez singing "Imagine." Joan is doing live video concerts on her Facebook page.

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