Marianne Faithfull Biography

29 December 1946, Hampstead, London, England. Ex-convent schoolgirl Faithfull began her singing career upon meeting producer Andrew Loog Oldham at a London party. She was thus introduced into the Rolling Stones’ circle and a plaintive Mick Jagger / Keith Richards song, ‘As Tears Go By’, became her debut single in 1964. This folksy offering reached number 9, the first of four UK Top 10 hits, which also included ‘Come And Stay With Me’ (penned by Jackie DeShannon) and the pounding ‘Summer Nights’. Her albums reflected an impressive balance between folk and rock, featuring material by Donovan, Bert Jansch and Tim Hardin, but her doomed relationship with Jagger undermined ambitions as a performer. Faithfull also pursued her thespian aspirations, appearing on stage in Chekhov’s Three Sisters and on celluloid in the title role of Girl On A Motorcycle, but withdrew from the public eye following a failed suicide attempt upon her break with Jagger.

Drug problems bedevilled the singer’s recovery, but Faithfull re-emerged in 1976 with Dreamin’ My Dreams, a mild country set on which she was backed by the Grease Band. A further period of seclusion followed but the singer rekindled her career three years later when Chris Blackwell instigated her signing to Island Records. Her debut for the label was the impressive Broken English. The once-virginal voice was now replaced by a husky drawl, particularly effective on the atmospheric title track and her version of Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ reached number 48 in the UK charts. Faithfull’s later releases followed a similar pattern, with the most effective being 1987’s Strange Weather, conceived by Tom Waits and produced by Hal Willner. Nowhere was the trauma of Faithfull’s personal life more evident than on 1990’s Blazing Away, a live album on which the singer reclaimed songs from her past. Recorded live in Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Cathedral, her weary intonation, although artistically effective, contravened the optimism of those early recordings.

Faithfull’s autobiography, published in 1994, provided a revealing and fascinating insight into a true survivor of the 60s. The singer’s first studio album of the 90s, A Secret Life (1995), was a return to the brooding atmosphere of Broken English. Although her voice was still captivating, the songs, with lyrics by Faithfull and music by Angelo Badalamenti, were generally uninspiring. The following year’s 20th Century Blues was a an ill-chosen live album from a Paris concert featuring songs by Kurt Weill, Noël Coward and, in Marlene Dietrich pose, ‘Falling In Love Again’. More suitable was Faithfull’s dramatic interpretation of the Bertolt Brecht /Kurt Weill piece, The Seven Deadly Sins, recorded live in Vienna.

The celebrated studio album Vagabond Ways, released in 1999, featured original songs and interpretations of material by artists including Leonard Cohen, Roger Waters, Elton John and producer Daniel Lanois. The upswing in Faithfull’s fortunes continued with 2003’s Kissin’ Time, an intriguing set which saw her collaborating with a host of contemporary artists including Beck, Blur, Jarvis Cocker and Billy Corgan. The same year, Faithfull starred in the acclaimed adaptation of Robert Wilson’s play The Black Rider which ran in London and San Francisco. The following year she teamed up with PJ Harvey to write and record Before The Poison, which also included collaborations with Nick Cave, Damon Albarn and Jon Brion. Noted UK writer Will Self came up with the album title and penned the sleevenotes. In December, the singer was forced to cancel an European tour after she collapsed before a show in Italy. She was diagnosed as suffering from chronic exhaustion. In September 2006 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but subsequently made a full recovery.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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