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Music / Marianne Faithfull

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Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull (born 29 December 1946) is a British singer who began her career in the Sixties. A former convent schoolgirl, she was discovered by manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Oldham gave her a song he'd co-written with the guitarist and singer for a band he was managing. That song, "As Tears Go By," made her a star at the age of 17 and well became her Signature Song over the years. She made the transition from singing to acting, co-starring with Alain Delon in the movie Girl on a Motorcycle. By the late 1960s, her life and career had unraveled from drug abuse. She attempted suicide and lost custody of her young son.

For much of the 1970s, she kept a low profile, re-emerging in 1979 with the album Broken English. The album drew from punk, reggae, and synth-rock, but the most striking change was Faithfull's voice, now deeper with a distinctive smoker's rasp. She reinvented herself yet again as a chanteuse with Strange Weather, an album of torch songs that included a new version of "As Tears Go By".

In the 1990s, Faithfull teamed up with Angelo Badalamenti for A Secret Life and recorded an English-language version of The Seven Deadly Sins as well as several other Brecht / Weill songs. She continues her career as a singer/songwriter and interpreter well into the 21st century.

Tropes associated with Marianne Faithfull and her music include:

  • Blue Blood: Faithfull's mother was an Austrian baroness. She inherited her mother's baronial title, becoming Baroness von Sacher-Masoch (though she doesn't use it). Incidentally, she is also the great-grand-niece of Venus in Furs author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from whose name we get the English word masochism (much to the dismay of Leopold himself, who was a well-respected man of letters in his lifetime).
  • Balladof X: "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" from Broken English.
  • Broken Bird: By the end of the 1960's due to her drug abuse. She got better.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Why'd Ya Do It?"
  • Cover Album: She's done two: Strange Weather and Easy Come Easy Go.
  • Cover Version: At least two of her well-known songs, "As Tears Go By" and "Sister Morphine", zig-zag or subvert the trope. Both were co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, the former with Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and the latter with Faithfull herself; however, Faithfull recorded and released her versions of both songs before the Stones did. With the Stones being one of the most famous rock bands in music history, their versions of both songs are probably more famous now, though. (It didn't help that Decca Records withdrew the "Something Better"/"Sister Morphine" single in the UK after only some 500 copies had been pressed due to the drug reference in the song title. The single did remain in print in several other countries, however.)
  • Determinator: Faithfull by the late 1970s. After spending a decade strung out, she went into the studio to make Broken English, her acclaimed comeback. She recalled later, "I thought I was going to die, that this was my last chance to make a record. I'm going to show you bastards who I am."
    • She also battled COVID in 2020.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Sister Morphine." Dear God, "Sister Morphine." She also co-wrote the song (with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; The Rolling Stones' version appears on Sticky Fingers, and it's a coin toss as to which is more harrowing).
  • Harsh Vocals: A hallmark of her career since 1979.
  • Jazz and Blues: From the late 1970s and 1980s on she reinvented herself as a crooner in this genre. Seeing that she lived through quite some troubles in her own life, it fit the style perfectly.
  • Questioning Title?: "Why D'Ya Do It?"
  • Precision F-Strike: "Why D'Ya Do It?" from Broken English.
  • Rearrange the Song: Her 1964 version of "As Tears Go By" is pristine folk-rock. Her 1987 version of the song is a world-weary ballad.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Incarceration of a Flower Child" reflects on the mental collapse of former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett, having been written by bassist Roger Waters shortly after Barrett's mental health issues forced the band to kick him out. Pink Floyd never released the song themselves, but Waters eventually gave it to Faithfull.
  • Smoky Voice: Probably the most famous female example in music history.note  Metallica even brought her in to sing on their 1997 single "The Memory Remains" because of it!
  • Western Terrorists: The song "Broken English" was inspired by Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang.
  • Woman Scorned: "Why D'Ya Do It?"