Former convent girl Marianne Faithfull (born 29 December 1946) released her debut single – the Mick Jagger/Keith Richard penned As Tears Go By – in August 1964, at the age of 17, after meeting The Rolling Stones‘ manager Andrew Loog Oldham at a party in London.
He gave her a recording contract because he loved her name and looks. The song hit #9 on the UK charts. In September of that year, Marianne made her live debut at the Adelphi Cinema in Slough.
The following month she appeared on the TV show Juke Box Jury, and commented on one record; “I’d like it at a party if I was stoned”.
Her next single, a cover of the Bob Dylan song Blowin’ In The Wind was released in November, but she collapsed and was confined to bed, pulling out of a 26-date British tour with Gerry & The Pacemakers, Gene Pitney and The Kinks.
American singer Jackie DeShannon took her place on the tour, although Marianne was well enough to fly to the US in December for TV and radio appearances.
February 1965 found Marianne embarking on a 30-date, twice-nightly UK package tour headlined by Roy Orbison, while her next release, Come And Stay With Me, reached #4 in the UK charts.
As her singles began to also chart in the USA, she undertook a tour of America with Gene Pitney – with whom she was rumoured at the time to be having a romance.
Faithfull married her boyfriend John Dunbar in May while her next single (This Little Bird) was at #4 in Britain. She also became a resident guest host on the new BBC2 TV series Gadzooks! It’s The In Crowd. Not bad going for a young woman who had only just turned 18!
Two albums were released simultaneously in the UK – The folk package Come My Way (which charted at #12) and Marianne Faithfull (containing her first two hit singles) which charted at #15.
Collapsing again in August, during a concert at Morecambe, Lancashire, she cancelled all forthcoming engagements, including a US tour set for the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the singles Summer Nights and Yesterday hit the charts, although Marianne’s version of The Beatles‘ song was beaten to the charts by a version by veteran crooner Matt Monro.
Her next album, Go Away From My World, seemed aptly titled, as Marianne separated from Dunbar and became Mick Jagger’s constant companion, remaining with the Stones‘ vocalist for nearly four years.
In February 1967 she was with Jagger at Keith Richards’ Redlands estate when police raided the premises. Unlike Jagger and Richards, she was not charged with drug possession, although legend had it that when police conducted the raid they found Mick Jagger eating a Mars bar out of Faithfull’s vagina.
Completely false and concocted by the police, of course, but apparently brought up at Jagger’s trial by the prosecuting counsel. The 60s, hey?
Faithfull also began her acting career in 1967, appearing in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters at London’s Royal Court Theatre. By year’s end, she had also appeared in the film I’ll Never Forget Whatsisname with Oliver Reed and Orson Welles.
In 1968 she co-starred with Alain Delon in Girl On A Motorcycle (known in the US as Naked Under Leather) which was savaged by critics. She also participated in the filming of The Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus and miscarried Mick Jagger’s baby.
Eight months later, while on the Australian set of the film Ned Kelly (1970) in which she was to co-star with Jagger, Marianne was discovered in a coma, suffering from a self-inflicted drug overdose. She was dropped from the movie and sent to hospital for treatment of her heroin addiction.
Marianne failed to make an impression when she returned to recording in 1975 after a six-year gap with a version of Waylon Jennings‘ Dreaming My Dreams.
Marianne re-emerged in 1980 with a truly startling album, Broken English. This agonisingly honest work spawned a hit single in the form of The Ballad of Lucy Jordan and some fiery furore (and bannings) for Why D’ya Do It?
The critics drooled over the album’s collection of songs, which covered everything from sex to the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group and included a version of John Lennon‘s Working Class Hero – sung more than adequately for an upper-class ex-convent girl.
Marianne told the press that she was over the heroin addiction that led to her departure from the music world and added that the royalties from Sister Morphine, the song she wrote for the Stones‘ album Sticky Fingers had been what sustained her through the past ten years. “Don’t tell me”, she said, “that drugs don’t pay”.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Marianne married and divorced a few times and lived in the US (until she was deported) and Dublin, Eire. She continued to record and perform sporadically, and in 1999 appeared on an all-star bill at London’s Royal Albert Hall in Here, There and Everywhere – A Concert For Linda (remembering Linda McCartney).
Faithfull released several albums in the 2000s that received a positive critical response, including Vagabond Ways (1999), Kissin Time (2002) and Before the Poison (2005).
On 4 April 2020, 74-year-old Marianne Faithfull was hospitalised in London suffering from COVID-19. She was discharged nearly a month later having fully recovered from the virus.