Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull in concert in Istanbul March, 2008.
Marianne Faithfull in concert in Istanbul March, 2008.
Background information
Birth name Marian Evelyn Faithfull
Born 29 December 1946 (1946-12-29) (age 62)
Hampstead, London, England
Genre(s) Rock, pop, folk, jazz, blues
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, actress
Instrument(s) Vocals, keyboards
Voice type(s) Deep contralto, formerly Alto and Soprano
Years active 1964–present
Label(s) Decca, Deram, London, NEMS, Columbia, Island, RCA, Instinct, Sanctuary, Anti, Naïve
Associated acts Andrew Loog Oldham
Mick Jagger
The Rolling Stones
Website Official Website

Marianne Faithfull (born 29 December 1946) is an English singer, songwriter, actress and diarist whose career spans five decades. Her early work in pop and rock music in the 1960s was overshadowed by her struggle with drug abuse in the 1970s. After a long commercial absence, she returned late in 1979 with the landmark album, Broken English. Faithfull's subsequent work, very frequently the subject of great critical acclaim, has at times been overshadowed by her personal history.

With a recording career that spans over four decades, Faithfull has continually reinvented her musical persona, experimenting in different musical genres and collaborating with such varied artists as Angelo Badalamenti, Beck, David Bowie, Nick Cave, The Chieftains, Jarvis Cocker, Billy Corgan, Marcella Detroit, Emmylou Harris, PJ Harvey, Antony Hegarty, Rupert Hine, Joe Jackson, Alex James, Lenny Kaye, Daniel Lanois, Sean Lennon, Metallica, John Prine, Barry Reynolds, Keith Richards, Sly and Robbie, Teddy Thompson, Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Roger Waters, Steve Winwood and Patrick Wolf.


Early life

Faithfull was born Marian Evelyn Faithfull[1] in Hampstead, London. Her father, Major Dr. Robert Glynn Faithfull, was a British military officer and college professor in psychology[2]. Her mother, Baroness Eva Erisso von Sacher-Masoch was originally from Vienna, with noble roots from the Habsburg Dynasty and Jewish ancestry on her maternal side.[3] Erisso was a ballerina for the Max Reinhardt Company during her early years, and danced in productions of works by the German theatrical duo Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.[4] Faithfull's maternal great-great-uncle was Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the infamous 19th century Austrian nobleman whose erotic novel, Venus in Furs, spawned the word "masochism".[5] In regard to her roots in nobility, Faithfull commented in March, 2007 prior to beginning the European leg of her tour, "I'm even going to Budapest, which is nice because I'm half English and half Austro-Hungarian. I've inherited the title Baroness Sacher-Masoch - it comes from one of my great uncles who gave his name to masochism."[6]

The family originally lived in Ormskirk a market town in West Lancashire 13 miles NE of Liverpool while her father completed a doctorate at Liverpool University.[2] She spent some of her early life at the commune formed by her father at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire. After her parents divorced, when she was six years old[2], she moved with her mother to Reading, Berkshire. Living in rather reduced circumstances, Faithfull's girlhood was marred by bouts with tuberculosis and her charity-boarder status at St Joseph's Convent School. While at St. Joseph's, she was also a member of the Progress Theatre's student group.

Music career and personal life


Faithfull began her singing career in 1964, landing her first gigs as a folk music performer in coffeehouses.[7] Faithfull emerged as a fashionable, vivacious teenager and soon began partaking in London's exploding social scene. In early 1964 she attended a Rolling Stones' launch party with John Dunbar and there a chance meeting with Andrew Loog Oldham, who discovered Faithfull. Her first major release, "As Tears Go By", was penned by Oldham, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and became a chart success. She then released a series of successful singles, including "This Little Bird, Summer Nights" and "Come and Stay With Me".[7] Faithfull married artist John Dunbar on 6 May 1965 at Cambridge with Peter Asher as the best man.[2] The couple lived in a flat at 29 Lennox Gardens in Belgravia just off Knightsbridge, London SW1.[2] On 10 November 1965 she gave birth to their son, Nicholas.[2] She then: "...left her husband to live with Mick Jagger...' and told the 'New Musical Express' that: 'My first move was to get a Rolling Stone as a boyfriend. I slept with three and decided the lead singer was the best bet".[2]

In 1966 she took their son to stay with Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg in London. During that time period, Faithfull started using marijuana and became best friends with Pallenberg. She also began a much publicized relationship with Mick Jagger that same year. The relationship with Jagger lasted throughout the early 1970s, and the couple became notorious and largely part of the hip Swinging London scene. She was found by British police while on a drug search at Keith Richards' house in Redlands, while wearing only a fur rug. In an interview 27 years later with A. M. Homes for Details, Faithfull discussed her wilder days and admitted that the drug bust-fur rug incident had ravaged her personal life: "It destroyed me. To be a male drug addict and to act like that is always enhancing and glamorizing. A woman in that situation becomes a slut and a bad mother". In 1968 Faithfull, by now addicted to cocaine, miscarried a daughter (whom she had named Corrina) while retreating to Jagger's country house in Ireland.[7][8]

Faithfull's involvement in Jagger's life would be reflected in some of the Rolling Stones' best-known songs. "Sympathy for the Devil", featured on the album Beggars Banquet (1968), was in part inspired by The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, a book which Faithfull introduced him to. The song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" on the Let It Bleed album (1969) was written about Faithfull; the songs "Wild Horses" and "I Got the Blues" on the 1971 album Sticky Fingers were also influenced by Faithfull, and she herself wrote "Sister Morphine". (The writing credit for the song was the subject of a protracted legal battle; the resolution of the case has Faithfull listed as co-author of the song.) In her autobiography, Faithfull said Mick Jagger and Keith Richards released it in their own names so that her agent did not collect all the royalties and proceeds from the song, especially as she was homeless and battling with heroin addiction at the time. Faithfull appeared on the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus TV show, giving a solo performance of "Something Better".[7]


Faithfull dissolved her relationship with Jagger in May 1970, and lost custody of her son in that same year, which led to her mother attempting suicide.[7] Marianne's personal life went into decline, and her career went into a tailspin. She only made a few appearances, including a 1973 performance at NBC with David Bowie, singing Sonny Bono's song (recorded in 1965 by Sonny and Cher) I Got You Babe.[7]

Faithfull lived on London's Soho streets for two years, suffering from heroin addiction and anorexia nervosa.[9] Friends intervened and enrolled her in an NHS drug programme, from which she could get her daily fix on prescription from a chemist (pharmacy).[10] She was one of the program's most notorious failures, neither controlling nor stabilizing her addiction as the NHS intended. In 1971, producer Mike Leander found her on the streets and made an attempt to revive her career, producing part of her album Rich Kid Blues. The album would be shelved until 1985.[7]

Severe laryngitis coupled with persistent cocaine abuse during this period permanently altered the sound of Faithfull's voice, leaving it cracked and lower in pitch. While the new sound was praised as "whiskey-soaked" by some critics, journalist John Jones of the (London) Sunday Times wrote that she had "permanently vulgarized her voice".[7] In 1975 she released the country-influenced record Dreamin' My Dreams, which reached the top of the Irish Albums Chart.[7] Faithfull moved into a squat without hot water or electricity in Chelsea with her then-boyfriend Ben Brierly, of punk band The Vibrators.

Faithfull's career returned full force in 1979 (the same year she was arrested for marijuana possession in Norway) with the album Broken English, one of her most critically hailed album releases.[7] The album was partially influenced by the punk explosion and on her marriage to Brierly in the same year. In addition to the punk-pop sounds of the title track (which addressed terrorism in Europe, being dedicated to Ulrike Meinhof), the album also included "Why D'Ya Do It", a punk-reggae song with aggressive lyrics adapted from a poem by Heathcote Williams.[11] The musical structure of this song is complex; though on the surface hard rock, it is a tango in 4/4 time, with an opening electric guitar riff by Barry Reynolds in which beats 1 and 4 of each measure are accented on the up-beat, and beat 3 is accented on the down beat. Faithfull, in her autobiography, commented that her fluid yet rhythmic reading of Williams' lyric was "an early form of rap".[7] Broken English also revealed an astonishing change to Faithfull's singing voice. The melodic vocals on her early records were replaced with a raucous, deep voice, affected by years of smoking, drinking and drug use.[7]


Faithfull began living in New York after the release of the follow-up to Broken English, Dangerous Acquaintances, in 1981. Despite her comeback, she was still battling with addiction in the mid-1980s, at one point breaking her jaw tripping on a flight of stairs while under the influence.[7] In another incident her heart actually stopped. A disastrous appearance on Saturday Night Live was blamed on too many rehearsals, but it was suspected that drugs had caused her vocal chords to seize up. Rich Kid Blues (1984) was another collection of her early work combined with new recordings, a double record showcasing both the pop and rock 'n' roll facets of her output to date. In 1985, Faithfull performed "Ballad of the Soldier's Wife" on Hal Willner's tribute album Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill. Faithfull's restrained readings lent themselves to the material, and this collaboration informed several subsequent works.

In 1985, she was at Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota for rehabilitation. She then received treatment at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. While living at a hotel in nearby Cambridge, Faithfull started an affair (while still married to Brierly) with a dual diagnosis (mentally ill and drug dependent) man, Howard Tose, who later committed suicide by jumping from a 14th floor window of the apartment they shared.[7] In 1987, Faithfull dedicated a thank-you to Tose within the album package of Strange Weather, on the back sleeve: "To Howard Tose with love and thanks". Faithfull's divorce from Brierly was also finalized that year. In 1995, she wrote and sang about the experience of Tose's death in "Flaming September" from the album A Secret Life.[7]

In 1987, Faithfull again reinvented herself, this time as a jazz and blues singer, on Strange Weather, also produced by Willner. The album became her most critically lauded album of the decade. Coming full circle, the renewed Faithfull cut another recording of "As Tears Go By" for Strange Weather, this time in a tighter, more gravelly voice. The singer confessed to a lingering irritation with her first hit. "I always childishly thought that was where my problems started, with that damn song," she told Jay Cocks in Time, but she came to terms with it as well as with her past. In a 1987 interview with Rory O'Connor of Vogue, Faithfull declared, "forty is the age to sing it, not seventeen.[12] The album of covers was produced by Hal Willner after the two had spent numerous weekends listening to hundreds of songs from the annals of twentieth-century music. They chose to record such diverse tracks as Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep It with Mine" and "Yesterdays," written by Broadway composers Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach. The work also includes tunes first made notable by such blues luminaries as Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith; latter-day beat-virtuoso Tom Waits penned the title track. In 1988, the singer married writer and actor Giorgio Della Terza, but they divorced in 1991.[7]


When Roger Waters assembled an all-star cast of musicians to perform the rock opera The Wall live in Berlin in July 1990, Faithfull played the part of Pink's over-protective mother. Her musical career rebounded for the third time during the early 1990s with the live album Blazing Away, which featured Faithfull revisiting songs she had performed over the course of her career. Blazing Away was recorded at St. Anne's Cathedral in Brooklyn. The 13 selections include "Sister Morphine," a cover of Edith Piaf's "Les Prisons du Roy," and the controversial "Why D'Ya Do It?" from Broken English. Alanna Nash of Stereo Review commended the musicians whom Faithfull had chosen to back her—longtime guitarist Reynolds was joined by former Band member Garth Hudson and pianist Dr. John. Nash was also impressed with the album's autobiographical tone, noting "Faithfull's gritty alto is a cracked and halting rasp, the voice of a woman who's been to hell and back on the excursion fare—which, of course, she has. The reviewer extolled Faithfull as "one of the most challenging and artful of women artists," and Rolling Stone writer Fred Goodman asserted: "Blazing Away is a fine retrospective—proof that we can still expect great things from this graying, jaded contessa.[13]

As her fascination with the music of Weimar-era Germany continued, Faithfull released a recording of The Seven Deadly Sins and performed in The Threepenny Opera. Her interpretation of the music led to a new album, Twentieth Century Blues, which focused on the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, and a successful concert and cabaret tour.

In 1994 she published her autobiography, entitled Faithfull, in which she discussed her life, career, drug addictions, and bisexuality. A Collection of Her Best Recordings was released that same year, containing Faithfull's original version of "As Tears Go By," several cuts from Broken English, and a song written by Patti Smith scheduled for inclusion on an Irish AIDS benefit album. This track, "Ghost Dance", suggested to Faithfull by a friend who later died of AIDS, was made with a trio of old acquaintances: Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and guitarist Ron Wood backed Faithfull's vocals on the song, while Keith Richards coproduced it. The retrospective album also featured one live track, "Times Square," as well as Faithfull's return to songwriting with "She," penned with composer and arranger Angelo Badalamenti. The next year she recorded A Secret Life, with more songs written with Badalamenti. Faithfull also sang background vocals on Metallica's song "The Memory Remains" from their 1997 album ReLoad and appeared in the song's music video; the track reached #28 in the U.S. (#3 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart) and #13 in the UK.

In 1998 Faithfull released A Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology, a two-disc compilation that chronicled her years with Island Records. It featured tracks from her albums Broken English, Dangerous Acquaintances, A Child's Adventure, Strange Weather, Blazing Away, and A Secret Life, as well as several B-sides and unreleased tracks.

Faithfull's 1999 DVD Dreaming My Dreams contained material about her childhood and parents, with historical video footage going back to 1964 and interviews with the artist and several friends who have known her since childhood. The documentary included sections on her relationship with John Dunbar and Mick Jagger, and brief interviews with Keith Richards. It concluded with a 30-minute live concert. That same year, she ranked #25 in VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll.


Faithfull has released several albums in the 2000s that received positive critical response, beginning with Vagabond Ways (2000). It included collaborations with Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, and writer (and friend) Frank McGuiness. Later that year she sang "Love Got Lost" on Joe Jackson's Night and Day II album.

Her renaissance continued with Kissin' Time, released in 2002. The album contained songs written with Blur (title track), Beck, Billy Corgan, Jarvis Cocker, Dave Stewart, David Courts, and the French pop singer Étienne Daho. On this record, she paid tribute to Nico (with "Song for Nico"), whose work she admired. The album also included an autobiographical song she co-wrote with Cocker, called "Sliding Through Life on Charm".

In 2005, she released Before the Poison. The album was primarily a collaboration with PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, though Damon Albarn and Jon Brion also contributed. In 2005, André Schneider performed a cover version of her song "The Hawk", and she recorded (and co-produced) "Lola R Forever", a cover of the Serge Gainsbourg song "Lola Rastaquouere" with Sly & Robbie for the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. In 2007, Faithfull collaborated with the British singer/songwriter, Patrick Wolf on the duet "Magpie" from his third album The Magic Position and wrote and recorded a new song for the French film Truands called "A Lean and Hungry Look" with Ulysse. Later that year she released a second volume of autobiography called Memories, Dreams and Reflections. The book, published by Fourth Estate, was a more personal history than Faithfull.

Faithfull currently resides in Paris, with her manager and boyfriend François Ravard. In September 2006, she called off a concert tour after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.[14] [15] The following month, she underwent surgery in France and no further treatment was necessary owing to the tumour having been caught at a very early stage. Less than two months after she declared having the disease, Faithfull made her public statement of full recovery.[16]

In March 2007 she returned to the stage with a touring show entitled Songs of Innocence and Experience. Supported by a trio, the performance had a semi-acoustic feel and toured European theatres throughout the spring and summer. The show featured many songs she had not performed live before including "Something Better", the song she sang on The Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus. The show also included the Harry Nilsson song "Don't Forget Me" which features the line "When we're old and full of cancer, it doesn't matter now, come on, get happy" seen as a celebration of her surviving the disease.

Recent articles hint Faithfull is looking to retirement, in hopes money from Songs of the Innocence and Experience, will enable her to live in comfort. The 60-year-old said: "I’m not prepared to be 70 and absolutely broke. I realized last year that I have no safety net at all and I’m going to have to get one. So I need to change my attitude to life, which means I have to put away 10 per cent every year of my old age. I want to be in a position where I don’t have to work. I should have thought about this a long time ago but I didn’t."[17]

On 11 October 2007 Faithfull admitted to having the disease hepatitis C on UK television programme 'This Morning', and that she had first been diagnosed with the condition 12 years before.

On 27 May 2008, Faithfull released the following blog posting on her MySpace page, with the headline "Tour Dates Cancelled" and credited to FR Management - the company operated by her boyfriend/manager Francois Ravard: "Due to general mental, physical and nervous exhaustion doctors have ordered Marianne Faithfull to immediately cease all work activities and rehabilitate. The treatment and recovery should last around 6 months, we all wish Marianne a speedy recuperation period and look forward to her new album release and tour in 2009."[18]

In October of 2008, Marianne's website and MySpace page announced Marianne's tour of readings of Shakespeare's Sonnets, drawing on the "Dark Lady" sequence, will resume. Marianne's accompanist on the tour is the cellist Vincent Segal.[19]

Recording of her studio album Easy Come, Easy Go commenced in New York City on 6 December 2007; the album is produced by Hal Willner who also produced her 1987 album Strange Weather. A version of Morrissey's Dear God Please Help Me from his 2006 album, Ringleader of the Tormentors is one of the songs featured, and the album is available both a standard 10 song cd and as an 18 song cd-dvd combination. A collectible vinyl pressing is also available. The EU release on Naive was November 10, 2008.[20] Amazon will begin US shipment of the vinyl pressing as an import beginning November 25, 2008 and the 10 song cd also as an import, on December 2. Amazon will begin US shipment of the cd-dvd version on December 9, 2008, specifying this as the release date though not noting this edition as an import. These dates differ slightly from the dates mentioned in a November 9, 2008 blog posted by Marianne Faithfull on her MySpace page, in which US and UK releases are projected for early 2009.[21]

Acting career

In addition to her music career, Faithfull has had a career as an actress in theatre, television and film.

Her first professional theatre appearance was in a 1967 stage adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, at the Royal Court, London, in which she played Irina, co-starring with Glenda Jackson and Avril Elgar. Before that she played herself in Jean-Luc Godard's movie Made in U.S.A.. Faithfull has also appeared in the 1967 film I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name alongside Orson Welles (where she notedly became the first person to say "fuck" in a mainstream studio picture), in the French tv movie Anna, starring Anna Karina (in which Faithfull sang Serge Gainsbourg's 'Hier ou Demain', a video available on YouTube), as a leather-clad motorcyclist in the 1968 French film La Motocyclette (English titles: Girl on a Motorcycle and Naked Under Leather) opposite Alain Delon, and in Kenneth Anger's 1969 film Lucifer Rising, in which she played Lilith. In 1969, Faithfull played Ophelia opposite Nicol Williamson's Hamlet, directed by Tony Richardson and featuring Anthony Hopkins as Claudius.

Her stage work also included Edward Bond's Early Morning at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in which she played a lesbian Florence Nightingale, The Collector at St. Martin's Theatre in the West End opposite Simon Williams, Mad Dog at Hampstead Theatre opposite Denholm Elliott, A Patriot for Me by John Osborne, at Watford Palace Theatre and The Rainmaker, which toured the UK and in which Marianne's co-star was TV actor Peter Gilmore. Other film roles in the 1970s included Stephen Weeks's Ghost Story (AKA Madhouse Mansion) and Assault on Agathon.

Her television acting in the late 1960s and early 1970s included The Door of Opportunity (1970) with Ian Ogilvy,[22] adapted from W. Somerset Maugham's story, followed by Strindberg's The Stronger (1971) with Britt Ekland,[23] and Terrible Jim Fitch (1971) by James Leo Herlihy, which once more paired Faithfull with Nicol Williamson.[24]

In 1993, she played the role of Pirate Jenny in The Threepenny Opera at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. Later she performed The Seven Deadly Sins with the Vienna Radio Symphony, a CD of which was released in 1998.

She has played both God and the Devil. She appeared as God in two guest appearances in the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous opposite friend Jennifer Saunders, with another close friend, Anita Pallenberg, playing the Devil. In 2004 and 2005, Marianne herself played the Devil in William Burroughs's and Tom Waits's musical, The Black Rider, directed by Robert Wilson, which opened at London's Barbican Theatre, toured to San Francisco, but from which Marianne was forced to withdraw prior to performances at the Sydney Festival, owing to exhaustion.

In 2001 Faithfull appeared with Lucy Russell and Lambert Wilson in C.S. Leigh's Far From China. She has also appeared in Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy (2001) and, in 2004, in Jose Hayot's Nord-Plage. Faithfull appeared as Empress Maria-Theresa in Sofia Coppola's 2006 biopic, Marie-Antoinette, in which the most affecting aspects of her performance were her beautifully spoken voice-overs. She starred in the film Irina Palm, released at the Berlinale film festival in 2007. Faithfull plays the central role of Maggie, a 60-year-old widow who becomes a sex worker to pay for medical treatment for her ill grandson.[25] On 4 November 2007 it was announced by the European Film Academy that Faithfull had received a nomination for Best Actress, for her role as Maggie in Irina Palm. At the 20th annual European Film Awards ceremony held in Berlin, on 1 December 2007, Faithfull lost to Helen Mirren.

Faithfull lent her voice to the 2008 film Evil Calls: The Raven, although this was recorded several years earlier when the project was still titled Alone in the Dark. She has appeared in the 2008 feature documentary by Nik Sheehan on Brion Gysin and the Dreamachine, entitled FLicKeR.

In October of 2008, Marianne's website and MySpace page announced Marianne's tour of readings of Shakespeare's Sonnets, drawing on the "Dark Lady" sequence. Marianne's accompanist on the tour is the cellist Vincent Segal.[26]


Main article: Marianne Faithfull discography


Further reading


  1. Confirmed by Faithfull's agent Sara Bessadi on 15 Dec 2006. More on it in "Discussion".
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Harry, Bill (2000). The Beatles Encyclopaedia (2000 paperback edition; first published 1992). London: Virgin Publishing, London W6 9HA. pp. 403. ISBN 0-7535-0481-2. 
  3. Canada.Com Retrieved 3-11-2008
  4. Faithfull, Marianne: Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Fourth Estate (1 October 2007) ISBN-10: 0007245807
  5. The Times 1999 interview: "Sex God? Marianne's last word"
  6. The Daily Mail, 3 March 2007: "Marianne Faithfull: 'I've been given another life...'" by Paul Henderson
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 Faithfull, Marianne. Faithfull: An Autobiography Boston: Little, Brown; 1994. ISBN 0-316-27324-4
  8. Marianne Biography
  9. Mojo Magazine, 2005: Marianne Faithfull's interview with Sylvie Simmons
  10. The Observer, 2001: "You know, I'm not everybody's cup of tea!"
  11. The New York Times 1981 article: "The Pop Life"
  12. Marianne Biography
  13. Marianne Biography
  14. "Sixties star Faithfull has cancer", 14 September 2006
  15. "Stay Faithfull: A revealing audience with Marianne Faithfull", The Independent 2008-04-26
  16. "Faithfull recovers after cancer", 6 November 2006.
  18. "Marianne Faithfull Official MySpace"
  19. "Marianne Faithfull Official MySpace"
  20. [1] My Space
  21. [2] My Space
  22. IMDB Ian Ogilvy
  23. IMDB, Britt Ekland
  24. Marianne Faithfull Filmography
  25. "Marianne Faithfull shines as grandmother-turned-sex worker", 13 February 2007.
  26. "Marianne Faithfull Official MySpace"

External links