Who is Marianne Faithfull?
Marianne Faithfull is an English singer, songwriter, and actress who rose to prominence with her hit single ‘As Tears Go By.’ She released her debut album ‘Marianne Faithfull’ in 1965. It became a hit and its commercial success was followed by the release of several other albums. After achieving considerable success as a singer, she ventured into acting as well. Her films like ‘I'll Never Forget What's'isname,’ ‘The Girl on a Motorcycle’, and ‘Hamlet’ further boosted her popularity. However, due to her personal problems like heroin addiction, alcoholism, and anorexia, her career took a backstage in the 1970s. Despite her persistent problems, she made a comeback in 1979 with her album ‘Broken English’, which was not only critically acclaimed but was also a commercial hit, and earned her a Grammy nomination. This was followed by a number of albums like ‘Dangerous Acquaintances’, ‘A Child's Adventure, and ‘Strange Weather’. She also authored three books about her life—‘Faithfull: An Autobiography’, ‘Memories, Dreams & Reflections’, and ‘Marianne Faithfull: A Life on Record’. She received the World Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Childhood & Early Life
Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull was born on December 29, 1946 in Hampstead, London. Her father, Major Robert Glynn Faithfull, was a British Army officer who later joined the Bedford College of London University as a professor of Italian Literature. Her mother Eva was an Austro-Hungarian baroness. Her parents divorced when she was six and she moved with her mother to Reading.
She did her primary schooling in Brixton. Later she went to St Joseph's Roman Catholic Convent School, Reading. At school, she was a member of the Progress Theatre's group. During her early life, she suffered from tuberculosis.
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Beginning her singing career in 1964, Marianne Faithfull started off as a folk music performer in coffeehouses. That year, she was discovered by Andrew Loog Oldham at a Rolling Stones launch party. Soon she released the single, ‘As Tears Go By’, written and composed by Jagger, Keith Richards, and Oldham. The song became a chartbuster.
She made her debut theatre appearance as Irina in Chekhov's ‘Three Sisters’ at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1967. She was then seen in the film ‘Made in U.S.A’, and ‘I'll Never Forget What's'isname’ in the same year. She also did a few French productions including television film ‘Anna’, the 1968 film ‘La Motocyclette’ and Kenneth Anger's 1969 film ‘Lucifer Rising.’ She appeared in Edward Bond's ‘Early Morning’ at the Royal Court Theatre as well.
Faithfull effortlessly shuffled making music and acting. She released a number of singles like ‘This Little Bird’, ‘Summer Nights’, and ‘Come and Stay with Me’, which were all successful. On television, she was featured in ‘The Door of Opportunity’ in 1970, followed by ‘The Stronger’ and ‘Terrible Jim Fitch’ in 1971.
While she was enjoying success on the professional front, her personal life was a very troubled one. Plagued by drug abuse issues, she found herself homeless in the 1970s. Producer Mike Leander found her on the streets and tried to revive her career by producing the album ‘Rich Kid Blues’. However, the album was shelved until 1985.
During this time, she suffered from laryngitis and her voice was affected due to continuous drug abuse—it was left cracked and low-pitched. While some critics liked it and described it as "whisky soaked", others rejected it and termed it as “vulgar". Despite her bad health, she released ‘Dreamin My Dreams’, her only record of country music, in 1975. It reached No.1 on the Irish Albums Chart.
In 1979, she made a comeback with the album ‘Broken English’, which was critically acclaimed. The album ‘Dangerous Acquaintances’ followed it in 1981. In 1985, she released ‘Rich Kid Blues’, which was a collection of her early songs along with some new recordings. In 1987, her album ‘Strange Weather’ was released; it was critically applauded as the album of the decade.
In 1993, she played Pirate Jenny in ‘The Threepenny Opera’ at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. In 1994, a collection of her best recordings was released along with her autobiography ‘Faithfull’.
Her new album, ‘Twentieth Century Blues’ was released in 1996, followed by a recording of ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ in 1998. In 1999, her album ‘Vagabond Ways’ was released. She put out the album ‘Kissin Time’ in 2002 and the album ‘Before the Poison’ in 2005.
She played supporting roles in the films ‘Faces in the Crowd’ and ‘Belle du Seigneur’ in 2011 and 2012, respectively. In January 2011, she released her 18th studio album ‘Horses and High Heels’. Her album ‘Give My Love to London’ was launched in 2014.
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Known for creating interesting and innovative music, Marianne Faithfull has several hit albums and chartbuster singles to her credit. Her debut single, ‘As Tears Go By’ was a chart success. It peaked at number 9 in the UK, number 1 on the Canada Top Singles chart and number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Her seventh studio album ‘Broken English’ was her “masterpiece”. It marked a major comeback for the singer after a hiatus. It charted in different countries across the world and was accredited platinum in Australia and Canada, and gold in Germany and France.
On May 6, 1965, Marianne Faithfull married art dealer John Dunbar and their son Nicholas Dunbar was born on November 10, 1965. They soon separated and divorced. In 1966, she left her son with singer Brian Jones and actress Anita Pallenberg in London.
She met English singer Mick Jagger in 1966 and began dating him. They led a wild life, smoking marijuana and partying extensively. Faithfull ended her relationship with Jagger in 1970. In the same year, she lost custody of her son, leading her to attempt suicide.
She suffered from acute drug addiction, alcoholism, and anorexia nervosa till the mid-1980s. She became homeless for a while and was hospitalized several times. She was enrolled in an NHS drug program, but she failed to control her addiction.
In 1979, she was arrested for marijuana possession in Norway. Battling her drug problem, she went through extensive rehabilitation.
In 1979, she married Ben Brierly of the band the Vibrators. They divorced in 1986. Around this time, she started an affair with Howard Tose, who was mentally ill and a drug addict. Later he committed suicide by jumping from the 14th floor of the flat they shared. In 1988, she married writer and actor Giorgio Della Terza and they divorced in 1991.
Faithfull's career was repeatedly disturbed by her health problems as well. In September 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in October she underwent surgery in France. In October 2007, she revealed that she suffered from hepatitis C. In May 2014, she suffered a broken hip after she fell down while on a holiday and underwent surgery.