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Faithfull, Marianne

Category: Musician or composer

1967

Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull (born 29 December 1946) is an English singer, songwriter and actress.

She is a fascinating lass, an example of a person who has been to hell and back several times and has used the experience to create songs and music of a quite exceptional kind. 

Her lyrics – poetry in fact – and her singing voice are her strengths.  She has used hell and adversity and all its horrors to enrich all she does.  Her singing voice is perhaps the best exemplar of her life.   It turned from almost saccharine sweet to raw, gravelly and filled with emotion. 

In 1999, Marianne ranked 25th on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll.  On 5 March 2009, she received the World Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Women's World Awards.


"Marianne's contribution to the arts over a 45-year career including 18 studio albums as a singer, songwriter and interpreter, and numerous appearances on stage and screen is now being acknowledged with this special award."

 

The award was presented in Vienna, with ceremonies televised in over 40 countries on 8 March 2009 as part of International Women's Day.  On 23 March 2011 she was awarded the Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France's highest cultural honours.

Life

Marianne Faithfull’s father, Major Robert Glynn Faithfull, was a British Army officer and professor of Italian Literature at Bedford College of London University. Her mother was styled as Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso and was originally from Vienna. The family of Sacher-Masoch had secretly opposed the Nazi regime in Vienna. Glynn Faithfull's work as an Intelligence Officer for the British Army brought him into contact with the family, and he thus met Eva.  She thus has both aristocratic roots and is no slouch intellectually.  It was Marianne Faithfull who introduced Mick Jagger to the book The Master and Margarita, written by Mikhail Bulgakov and on which his song "Sympathy for the Devil," featured on the 1968 album Beggars Banquet, was partially based. 

 

But the 60s was not a time to be an intelligent woman, it was a time to be a ‘dolly bird' [how we hated that term] and Marianne acted the part of the ultimate dolly bird.

She was also a dolly bird with a convent education, a style of education well known to produce nymphomaniacs – or so it was rumoured.  The repression simply had the opposite effect in any thinking person, and everyone knew Marianne was a thinking person. But, it seems, it was all an act.  Marianne was after all a most successful actress as well as singer and lyricist:

I hated sex, says Marianne Faithfull - 10 Sep '13, 12:26am Daily Mail

…the singer and actress has confessed that she … was so disgusted by sex that she had to take drugs or alcohol before she could be physically intimate.    “It was a big problem for me in the Sixties, especially as I had to pretend that everything was so wonderful, wild and sexual. But it really wasn’t.  It took me years, until the time I got to 50 or so, before I could be in a relationship and love and not have to take drink or drugs to have sex.”
She sealed her reputation for being “wild” following an alleged incident during a drugs raid at Richards’s house in West Sussex in 1967 when she was found naked, wrapped in a fur rug. It was claimed that she and Jagger, with whom she had a four-year relationship, were interrupted during a sex act involving a Mars bar.  The story was not denied until decades later.

 

with Mick Jagger

Or maybe it was the convent.  Marianne Faithfull achieved popularity in the 1960s with the release of her hit single "As Tears Go By".  In early 1964 she had been at a Rolling Stones launch party and met Andrew Loog Oldham.  She was a very very pretty girl.  Oldham took her under his wing, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Oldham, wrote and composed ‘As Tears Go By’ and it became a chart success.  Her singing voice then was young, childish; it had no real depth.  She sings, it is nice, but there is no sense of a life lived, no Nina Simone sense, no Billie Holliday edge, she is a sweet pretty little girl with a nice song.

The seeds of change from the sweet dolly bird to the true Marianne Faithfull, the Marianne Faithfull we see now began were sown when she was quite young.  Her parents divorced when she was six years old and her mother, brother and herself were not at all well off.  There is nothing worse than being a poor aristocrat.  The drive is there to pull yourself up by the boot straps and not be poor any longer.  Those used to poverty simply accept it as normal, those who have known better times, have a compulsive uncontrollable drive to go back to where they had been, using whatever assets one is blessed with.   

 

No one talks of Marianne as a candle in the wind, she is idolised as a survivor, one of the great tough battleships in the sea of life, but she of all people is the very epitome of this phenomenon.  She married John Dunbar on 6 May 1965 in Cambridge with Peter Asher as the best man.  On 10 November, 1965, she gave birth to their son, Nicholas. She left her husband shortly after to live with Mick Jagger.  Faithfull ended her relationship with Jagger in May 1970, and she lost custody of her son in that same year, which led to her attempting suicide.  She was pursued, unsuccessfully, by Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.  She also had sex with Keith Richards and Brian Jones, and singer Gene Pitney.  She moved into a squat without hot water or electricity in Chelsea with her-boyfriend Ben Brierly, of the punk band the Vibrators.   She married him in 1979. 

In the mid 1980s, while undergoing drug rehabilitation, she 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 flat they shared.  Despite his diagnosis, despite his eventual end, it seems that Howard Tose was one man who was a fellow spirit.  Whereas others might have added to the wind blowing on the candle, Tose it seemed was able to put his hands round the flame and add peace.  In 1987, Faithfull dedicated a "thank you" to Tose on the sleeve of the album Strange Weather: "To Howard Tose with love and thanks". Faithfull's divorce from Brierly was also finalised that year. In 1995, she wrote and sang about Tose's death in "Flaming September" from the album A Secret Life.

 

In 1988, Marianne married writer and actor Giorgio Della Terza, but they divorced in 1991. On 13 November 2009, she was interviewed by Jennifer Davies on World Radio Switzerland, Marianne said that she hoped to find love soon.

Fragile people are very vulnerable to addiction.  It is one of the sadder aspects of life that gifted people, - the poets, the writers, the musicians, the singers - who already have a foot in the door and lifted the veil, feel themselves compelled to take drugs to slam the door open fully and keep it open.  An ever open door eventually sends you insane, you no longer know what Reality is, which of the two worlds you inhabit is the real one.  To a gifted person, the spiritual one often seems the more attractive, as there is no need to eat, sleep, earn a living, fight, suffer pain, be hurt.  So their mind is elsewhere whilst their bodies remain in the physical realm and deteriorate until they die and are released.

The personality in astrological terms is often called the Neptune personality  - everything can become an addiction – sex, drugs even food or more usually lack of food.  Everything is taken to extremes.

 

Neptune is the planet of inspiration. The higher octave of Venus, Neptune brings beauty to a higher, more spiritual level. It also holds sway over dreams, the subconscious, illusions, fantasies and all things magical and enchanting. …  Neptune rules all visual communication, whether with symbols or gestures, such as photography, film, ballet and other dance arts, music, painting and poetry.  Neptune also rules drugs and alcohol.  Neptune is known as the Planet of Mist. It makes us want to escape mundane, everyday reality and to enter a more ideal, heavenly state..... Neptune is caught in a perpetual state of escapism. ...This is Neptune's Achilles' heel. .... Neptune needs to serve or have a reason to provide beauty and spiritual inspiration to world. Without it, Neptune fades into the oblivion of self-destructive behavior either intentionally or unintentionally.

In 1966, Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg introduced Marianne to marijuana.  With Mick Jagger she became addicted to sex.   In 1968, by then addicted to cocaine, she miscarried a daughter, whom she had named Corrina, adding grief to addiction.  She co-wrote "Sister Morphine" with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.  She was at one time homeless and battling with heroin addiction.  Although friends intervened and enrolled her in an NHS drug programme, she was one of the programme's most notorious failures, neither controlling nor stabilising her addiction.  The viruses and bacteria inevitably caught when one’s immune system is battling such hostile agents permanently altered her voice, leaving it cracked and lower in pitch.

 

It is perhaps important to understand that the addiction, grief, homelessness, the break-ups and traumas, did not help her creativity.  As Marianne’s personal life went into decline, so did her career.  At one time, in the 70s, it went into a complete tailspin. She only made a few appearances, whilst living rough on London's Soho streets for two years, suffering from heroin addiction and anorexia nervosa.

Creativity does not come from drugs, it only comes from the temporary battles won with them. 

She battled with addiction in the 80s too- in one incident her heart stopped.  But in the early 1980s, she managed to return to the music scene with the album Broken EnglishBroken English turned adversity into a creative act.  The songs are songs of anger and protest.  It was also the album which revealed the full extent of the damage drinking and drug use had had on her singing voice, with the “melodic vocals on her early records being replaced by a raucous, deep voice which helped capture the raw emotions expressed in the album's songs.”

In 1985, she attended the Hazelden Foundation Clinic in Minnesota for rehabilitation. She then received treatment at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

As Marianne passes her 60s and moves into her 70s, she is being increasingly afflicted by illness.  She has had breast cancer but after surgery in France, no further treatment was necessary. She has had hepatitis C.  She was forced to cancel a string of concerts following a back injury.  On 30 May 2014 she suffered a broken hip after a fall and underwent surgery. Afterwards, an infection formed where the prosthetic was placed.  It is also clear she finds her self imposed punishing work schedule exhausting

The Marianne that came out of all this is raw, damaged emotional and truly inspired.  The real Marianne has emerged.  Not the dolly bird with the sugar sweet voice and the twinkly eyes, and curvy lips, the convent girl supposedly turned naughty, but the Marianne who knows what it is to suffer, to live, to think, to feel TO BE. 
This Marianne is not acting.

Quote from Stellar blue on Youtube- talking about Sister Morphine
Back over 45 years ago, when I was young and foolishly chased a "nod" day in and day out.  I surely loved the wonderful yet cruel mistress, Morphia.  I am an old man in my 70s now, but I never really got free.  Watch yourself, youngsters.  The price I paid was so much more than just heavy.  Still to this day, while I do get by, the thought of returning to that dream state never leaves me.  It seems I am always at war with my inner self.  50 years, and I cannot shake the craving.  Life is tough, and I guess we would all like to escape from daily worries sometimes.

References

DVDs

Dreaming My Dreams  - 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 footage from a 30-minute live concert, originally broadcast on PBS for the series Sessions at West 54th.

Discography

  • 1964: Come My Way (UK-only)
  • 1964: Marianne Faithfull
  • 1965: Go Away from My World (US-only)
  • 1966: North Country Maid
  • 1967: Love in a Mist
  • 1976: Dreamin' My Dreams (aka Faithless)
  • 1979: Broken English
  • 1981: Dangerous Acquaintances
  • 1983: A Child's Adventure
  • 1985: Rich Kid Blues (Recorded 1971; aka True: The Collection)
  • 1987: Strange Weather
  • 1990: Blazing Away (Live)
  • 1995: A Secret Life
  • 1997: 20th Century Blues
  • 1998: The Seven Deadly Sins
  • 1999: Vagabond Ways
  • 2002: Kissin Time
  • 2005: Before the Poison
  • 2008: Easy Come, Easy Go
  • 2011: Horses and High Heels
  • 2014: Give My Love to London

Memoirs

Marianne has written two memoirs

  • Memories, Dreams and Reflections – her second memoir
  • Faithfull: An Autobiography, Marianne Faithfull (1994)

Observations

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