Marianne Faithfull

Origin: Hampstead, London

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Genres: Blues, Folk rock, jazz, Rock

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Marianne Faithful is an English singer, songwriter and actress.  She achieved popularity in the 1960’s with the release of her hit single “As Tears Go By” and became one of the leading artists during the British Invasion of America.

Noted for her distinctive voice, Faithfull’s previously melodic and higher registered vocals prevalent throughout her career in the 1960’s were affected by severe laryngitis, coupled with persistent drug abuse during the 1970’s, permanently altered her voice, leaving it raspy, cracked and lower in pitch leaving her more with a “whiskey soaked” sound that helped her capture the raw emotions expressed in her music.

Faithfull was born in Hampstead, London and began her career in 1964 after attending a Rolling Stones party where she was discovered by their manager Andrew Loog Oldham.  Faithfull began singing as a folk performer in London coffeehouses.  Her first major release “As Tears Go By” was written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Oldham and launched her into international stardom.  She then released a series of successful singles, including “This Little Bird,” “Summer Nights” and ” Come and Stay With Me.”

Her debut album 1965’s Marianne Faithfull was an international hit followed by a number of successful albums throughout the 1960’s.  Her popularity was further enhanced by her film roles in a number of movies including 1969’s Hamlet.  Faithfull’s popularity waned during the 1970’s through personal problems, anorexia and a heroin addiction.

In 1966 Faithfull began a much publicized relationship with Mick Jagger an involvement that would be reflected in some of the Rolling Stones’ best songs including “Sympathy for the Devil,” which was partially inspired by The Master and Margarita, written by Mikhail Bulgakov, a book which Faithfull had given to Jagger.  The songs “Wild Horses,” “I Got the Blues,” and “Sister Morphine,” from the 1971 album Sticky Fingers were supposedly influenced by Faithfull.  She received co-writing credit for “Sister Morphine” after a protracted legal battle.

By the early 1970’s Faithfull was living on the London streets suffering from a heroin addiction and anorexia.

Faithfull comeback began with 1979’s Broken English album partially inspired by the punk explosion.  The album’s commercial success rejuvenated her career and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and is often regarded as her definitive recording.  A series of albums followed including Faithfull writing three books about her life including Faithfull: An Autobiography.

Faithfull moved to New York in the early 1980’s, while still battling her addictions.  By 1987 Faithfull had reinvented herself as a jazz and blues singer on her album Strange Weather.  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.

Faithfull’s musical career rebounded for the third time in the early 1990’s with the release of the live album, Blazing Away, which featured her revisiting songs she had performed over the course of her career.

Faithfull released several albums during the 2000’s that received a critical response including Vagabond Ways, which included collaborations with Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris and Roger Waters.

In March 2007 Faithfull 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 theaters throughout the spring and summer interspersed with extensive biographical and musical footage.

Faithfull’s latest album 2018’s Negative Capability applies classic literature to songs channeling Keats and Shakespeare.  The album’s folky feel and Faithfull’s cragged singing anchor the album.  Negative Capability is charged with brutal honesty and autobiographical reflection as she addresses losing old friends, her loneliness living in her adopted city of Paris, and love.

References –

Marianne Faithful discography

Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays Marianne Faithfull.  All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/

Check out Marianne Faithfull performing “As Tears Go By,” from Negative Capability.