Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull’s long and distinguished career has seen her emerge as one of the most original female singer-songwriters this country has produced; Utterly unsentimental yet somehow affectionate, Marianne possesses that rare ability to transform any lyric into something compelling and utterly personal; and not just on her own songs, for she has become a master of the art of finding herself in the words and music of others.

Marianne Faithfull’s story, has of course, been well documented, not least in her entertaining and insightful autobiography FAITHFULL (1994). Born in Hampstead in December 1946 Faithfull’s career as the crown princess of swinging London was launched with As Tears Go By; the first song ever written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, five albums followed whilst Marianne also embarked on a parallel career as an actress, both on film in GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (1968) and on stage in Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS (1967) and HAMLET (1969) By the end of the Sixties personal problems halted Marianne’s career and her drug addiction took over.

Faithfull emerged tentatively in the mid-Seventies with a country album called DREAMIN’ MY DREAMS (1976) but it was her furious re-surfacing on BROKEN ENGLISH in 1979 that definitively brought her back. Further new wave explorations followed with DANGEROUS ACQUAINTANCES (1981) and A CHILD’S ADVENTURE (1983). But despite her new creative vigour, Marianne was not entirely free of the chemicals that had ravaged her in the sixties.

Displaying a sadness tempered by optimism, and a despair rescued by humour Marianne returned, finally clean with a collection of classic pop, blues and art songs on the critically lauded STRANGE WEATHER (1987). A live retrospective followed on BLAZING AWAY (CD&VHS 1990), which ably displayed why Faithfull has become one of the most sought after concert artists of the last 30 years.

New directions were taken on A SECRET LIFE (1995) co-written with the Italian composer Angelo Badalementi, and in her exploration of the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht; Beginning in 1991 with her performance in the Threepenny Opera, at the Gate Theatre in Dublin and continuing with 20TH CENTURY BLUES (1996). This journey concluded with her important recording of the opera THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS (1998). Marianne returned to her mainstream musical career with the release of one of her most admired albums, VAGABOND WAYS in 1999.

The millennium ushered in a period of renewed creative vigour that saw Marianne return to her acting career in INTIMACY (2001), MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006), and her acclaimed starring role in IRINA PALM (2006) for which she was nominated at the EFA for best actress. Two acclaimed albums followed based around collaborations with other artists that put her firmly back in the rock idiom KISSIN TIME (2002) with Billy Corgan, Beck, Pulp and Blur and more successfully with PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Damon Albarn and Jon Brion on BEFORE THE POISON (2004). Marianne also returned to the stage in THE BLACK RIDER (2004), a Faustian musical written by old friends Tom Waits and the late William Burroughs. Health scares put Marianne out of action for much of 2005 and 2006 but in 2007 Marianne toured the world and released a second volume of memoirs detailing a more personal side of her life called MEMORIES DREAMS AND REFLECTIONS (2007).

A recent trip to the BBC archives showed that almost all Marianne’s live broadcasts from the sixties had survived. In a return to the label that made her name, Decca classics released the 20 track collection MARIANNE FAITHFULL LIVE AT THE BBC in the summer of 2008. The collection includes all her early hits and many less well known recordings. Marianne is backed throughout by the Mike Leander Orchestra with guitarist Jon Mark and delivers strong confident performances that in several cases go beyond the interpretations she put down on record.

Marianne’s album EASY COME, EASY GO was released at the end of 2008. Recorded over a two week period at the historic Sear Sound studios in New York, all the songs had been chosen by Marianne and Hal. The album includes interpretations of songs from such varied artists as Billie Holiday’s ‘Solitude’, Merle Haggard’s ‘Sing Me Back Home’, Bessie Smith’s ‘Easy Come Easy Go Blues’ (the title track), Morrissey ‘Dear God Please Help Me’ and Dolly Parton ‘Down From Dover’. Using a brass band and string section, the band also reunites Marianne with Marc Ribot, and Barry Reynolds. Both Marianne and Hal feel the album is one of their best to date. Marianne also did some special readings throughout 2008 of Shakespeare’s love sonnets, accompanied by a cello.

While the defining statements of many artists are made during their early years, Marianne Faithfull continues to develop her own voice: She sets herself aside from her contemporaries in her continuing quest to explore new creative areas in a career that has always been a positive process of self-assertion.

-Andrew Batt


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