She is a singer-songwriter and actress born Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull in Hampstead, London to a family where her father was a psychology professor as well as a military spy/officer during WWII, her mother was the ballerina Baroness Erisso and her great-great uncle was the Austrian nobleman Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who wrote Venus in Furs which was where the word masochism had originally come from.
She spent some of her childhood in Ormskirk, West Lancashire and Brazier’s Park in Oxfordshire before going to live in Reading, Berkshire, with her mother after her parents were divorced. She went to a convent boarding school there, which had also previously been attended by the singer Alma Cogan.
She suffered some instances of tuberculosis as a child but still managed to join her school’s Progress Theatre student group. By the time she was 18 she had started singing folk music and in 1964 started her musical career by performing coffeehouse gigs. It wasn’t long into the year before she managed to get into a launch party for the Rolling Stones and get discovered by their manager Andrew Loog Oldham and the artist John Dunbar, who she married in the May of the following year and had their son, Nicholas in the November.
She released “As Tears Go By” in 1964 which had been written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and it reached No. 9 on the UK charts as well as having a 9 week stint on the US Billboard Singles Chart where it reached No. 22. She followed this success with the further chart songs “Come Stay With Me”, “Summer Nights”, “This Little Bird” And “Yesterday” in 1965.
After having their son, Nicholas, in November 1965, she left John Dunbar to go and live with Mick Jagger the following year. Nicholas had been taken to Brian Jones and his girlfriend, later girlfriend of Keith Richards, Anita Pallenberg, by Marianne in 1966. She had taken up smoking marijuana and having a very public relationship with Mick Jagger and during one of her interviews said to New Musical Express “My first move was to get a Rolling Stone a boyfriend. I slept with three and decided the lead singer was the best bet”. The couple were notorious in London for their activities and many years later she said that the time she was discovered by police at Keith Richards’ house wearing just a fur rug when they executed a raid had a terrible effect on her. She appeared on stage with Glenda Jackson in a production of Three Sisters by Chekhov in 1967 and that same year appeared with Orson Welles in I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘is Name and uttered what was probably the first time “f*ck” had been used in a major studio film . Her drug taking didn’t diminish though and in 1968 she lost her and Mick Jagger’s daughter due to a miscarriage.
During these years several of the songs by the Rolling Stones were about her or influenced by her and these included “Sympathy for the Devil” in 1968, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in 1969 and “I Got the Blues” and “Wild Horses” in 1971. She was the songwriter of their single “Sister Morphine” which led to a legal battle to have her credited as an author after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had taken the credit for themselves with the excuse of not letting her have royalties because she was a heroin addict and homeless by that time. Two other songs have been cited as being about her and they are “Carrie Anne” by The Hollies and “And Your Bird Can Sing” by The Beatles. 1969 saw her starring with Anthony Hopkins in a production of Hamlet.
In 1970 she brought her time with Mick Jagger to an end and at the same time the custody of her son was taken away from her. This incident caused her own mother to attempt to commit suicide and Marianne almost disappeared from public view. She became anorexic and fell deeper into her heroin habit and even after being introduced to a daily prescription programme created by the NHS, she could not control her addiction.
1971 saw her recording the album Rich Kid Blues after she had been taken off the streets by the producer Mike Leander. The attempt at getting her career back on track failed though and the album was put on ice until 13 years later. It wasn’t until 1975 that she released Dreamin’ My Dreams with her voice sounding much lower than before, probably due to the persistent drug abuse of previous years along with smoking and drinking. This change obviously didn’t damage her career as much as people may have thought though as the album reached No. 1 in Ireland.
After sharing homes with Ben Brierly of The Vibrators, whom she married, and the artist’s model Henrietta Moraes in various areas of London she managed to revive her career in 1979 when she recorded the punk influenced album Broken English.
In 1981 she released Dangerous Acquaintances and went to live in New York, although still battling with her drug addition. She appeared in the programme Saturday Night Live where her voice was affected and resulted in a performance that was deemed a failure. Three years later the long awaited issue of Rich Kid Blues came out 13 years after it being recorded and in 1985 she appeared on the tribute album by Hal Willner Lost in the Stars: The Music by Kurt Weill with a performance of “Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife”. Later that same year she entered another rehab unit on Minnesota followed by a hospital in Massachusetts, where she was living by that time.
She began an affair with Howard Tose in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was a drug dependent and suffered mental illness. He ended his life by jumping from their apartment window and in 1987 Marianne thanked him on the sleeve of her Strange Weather. She later wrote the song “Flaming September” about his death in 1995. She and Ben Brierly also finalised their divorce in 1987 and she married the actor and writer Giorgio Della Terza in 1988, with the marriage lasting just three years.
When the 1990s came around she took on the role of the mother of Pink in The Wall rock opera which had been put together by Roger Waters for a performance in Berlin. She then released the live album Blazing Away during the early 1990s which received a lot of critical acclaim, followed by A Collection of Her Best Recordings in 1994 which came out at the same time as her autobiography. In 1997 she found herself back in the charts when she sang backing on Metallica’s “The Memory Remains” and it reached No.13 in the UK and No. 28 in the US.
She went back to the stage when she became Pirate Jenny in the Dublin production of The Threepenny Opera and in 1996 she released her Twentieth Century Blues which concentrated on music by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Two years later she recorded The Seven Deadly Sins with the Vienna Radio Symphony and went on to release the DVD Marianne Faithfull Sings Kurt Weill after a concert tour. Also in 1998 she released her A Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology and in 1999 she issued her Vagabond Ways and the documentary DVD Dreaming My Dreams about her life was issued. This led to her appearing at No. 25 that year in the 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll which was published by VH1.
She was no less busy when the new millennium came around. She played both God and the Devil in various episodes of the TV hit comedy Absolutely Fabulous, in 2002 she released her Kissin’ Time with Before the Poison following in 2005. In 2006 she appeared in Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and was diagnosed with breast cancer which she subsequently beat following surgery. In 2007 she worked with Patrick Wolf on his The Magic Position and co-wrote “A Lean and Hungry Look” for the French movie Truands. Also in 2007 she was touring Europe in the show Songs of Innocence and Experience and at the end of the year she started recording her Easy Come, Easy Go and in 2009 she began the accompanying tour which took her to the UK, Europe and America.
The 2010s have still been keeping her active and in 2010 Q Magazine presented her with their Icon of the Year Award. In 2011 she released Horses and High Heels, which is her 18th studio album, with a planned tour of Europe to accompany it. That same year she was awarded France’s Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Letters. In 2014 her next album was Give My Love to London which she followed with a 12 month 50th Anniversary tour. Unfortunately some of the date on this tour had to be postponed when she suffered a broken hip, but a live album from the tour was released in 2016 entitled No Exit (Live).
She has worked with too many artists to mention during the course of her career but a few of them include Damon Albarn, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Dr. John, Serge Gainsbourg, Emmylou Harris, PJ Harvey, Sean Lennon, John Prine, Lou Reed, Sly & Robbie, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits and Stevie Winwood.
Some of the many albums by other artists her work has appeared on either as a composer or singer include Words of a Mountain by Wally Badarou, Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, Bells of Dublin by The Chieftains, Incredible Shrinking Dickies by The Dickies, Places by Bela Fleck, More Friends: Small World Big Band Vol. 2 by Jools Holland, Trouble in Mind by Mark Isham, Night and Day II by Joe Jackson, Symphonic Music of the Rolling Stones by the London Symphony Orchestra, More of The Monkees by The Monkees, Wall: Live in Berlin by Pink Floyd, Sticky Fingers and No Security by The Rolling Stones, Never Kick a Sleeping Dog by Mitch Ryder and the original soundtrack of Thelma and Louise and Tuff Turf.
Here she is performing “As Tears Go By”…