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Marianne Faithfull

What: Yoko Ono's Meltdown
When: June 14-23, 2013 (Marianne Faithfull on June 22, 2013)
Where: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, London, England
Tickets: Visit Southbank Centre
What: Marianne Faithfull
When: June 28, 2013
Where: Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga, California
Tickets: $29.50-$95; call 408-961-5858 or visit montalvoarts.org.
What: Kate Wolf Music Festival
When: June 28-30, 2013 (Marianne Faithfull on June 29, 20113)
Where: Black Oak Ranch, Laytonville, California
Tickets: $40-$240; call 415-256-8499 or 866-558-4253 or visit katewolfmusicfestival.com.
Marianne Faithfull website: Visit mariannefaithfull.org.uk.
Paul Freeman's Pop Culture Classics: Visit popcultureclassics.com.

Albums

(Not a complete list.)
Come My Way
"Come My Way" (1965)
Broken English
"Broken English," 1979
Strange Weather
"Strange Weather," 1987
Horses and High Heels
"Horses and High Heels," 2011
Marianne Faithfull
Courtesy of Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull: A winner,
not merely a rock survivor
Remarkable singer leaves her home in Paris for shows in London and California
June 22, 2013

Marianne Faithfull has packed a hell of a lot of living and an astonishing amount of creativity into her 66 years. She continues to make remarkably profound and provocative music.

Faithfull was born in Hampstead, London, England. Faithfull's father was a British army officer and psychology professor. Her mother was a ballerina in the Max Reinhardt company and danced to the works of Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill. Faithfull's parents divorced when she was six.

On her mother's side, Faithfull's great-great-uncle was Austrian writer/nobleman Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from whom the term "masochism" was derived.

By 1964, the teen Faithfull was a folk singer in coffeehouses. That year, at a Rolling Stones launch event, she was discovered by producer/manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Her recording of the earliest Jagger/Richards composition, "As Tears Go By," became an international hit.

In 1965, she married artist John Dunbar and had a son, Nicholas. The following year, she began a headline-making relationship with Mick Jagger. She contributed lyrics to several Stones songs, mostly unattributed, but belatedly received a co-writing credit on "Sister Morphine." Her own chart successes included "This Little Bird" and "Come and Stay With Me."

A ruinous drug bust sent Faithfull on a downward spiral. Suffering from addiction, she lived on the Soho streets for two years.

Her once angelic voice given gravitas by a newfound worldly gravel, Faithfull made a stunning return with her brilliant 1979 album, "Broken English." It contained punk and New Wave elements, as well as lacerating lyrics. A Deluxe Edition CD was released in 2013.

Clean and sober, she explored many musical directions and honed her songwriting gift. The acclaimed 1987 album, "Strange Weather," featured her insightful interpretations of such diverse writers as Bob Dylan, Doc Pomus & Dr. John, Tom Waits, Jerome Kern and Al Dubin & Harry Warren. It successfully blended rock, pop, cabaret, blues and jazz flavors.

Faithfull's latest release, her 18th studio album, "Horses and High Heels," includes four originals, as well as covers of such artists as Carole King, The Shangri-Las and Dusty Springfield. Guests include Lou Reed and MC5's Wayne Kramer. Faithfull is now working on a new album.

Faithfull has also proved to be a compelling actress. She played Ophelia in Tony Richardson's 1969 film adaptation of "Hamlet." At 60, in her first starring cinematic role, she earned rave reviews for her performance in "Irina Palm." Recently, she starred in an Austrian stage production of Kurt Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins."

She also relishes her role as grandmother to two boys.

Though she has battled cancer and Hepatitis C, Faithfull continues to create and perform. She plays Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, London, on June 22, 2013. Jazz guitar great Bill Frisell will join her band for the evening. It's part of this year's Yoko Ono-curated Meltdown Festival.

Then Faithfull will wing her way to California. She plays the Lilian Fontaine Garden Theatre in Saratoga's Montalvo Arts Center on June 28, 2013.

On June 29, 2013, Faithfull will grace the stage of the Kate Wolf Music Festival in Laytonville, California.

A Marianne Faithfull concert is an experience you'll never forget. And whenever we have an opportunity to converse with this colorful, candid artist, we leap at it. We spoke with her by phone on June 1, 2013, coast of California to France.

PAUL FREEMAN: It's great to have you returning to California.

MARIANNE FAITHFULL: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. I do love playing in California. It's going to be very good. I'm very keen. And you know, I'm doing this with a great musician friend of mine, called Rob Burger. He's played on a lot of my work. And he'll be playing on the next record. And I love playing with him.

FREEMAN: And the set list, will that be drawn from throughout your career?

FAITHFULL: Yeah. I'm not promoting anything at the moment, so I can play anything I want. So it will be all sorts of things, yeah.

FREEMAN: You mentioned the next record. Are you working on that now?

FAITHFULL: I'm writing the lyrics and working on that with different musicians at the moment. I don't go into the studio until November. So I've got plenty of time.

FREEMAN: Any idea what direction the album might take?

FAITHFULL: I do know, yeah, but I just can't say yet. One can't make hard and fast pronouncements, because it might not turn out like that [Laughs]. They have their own life, in a funny way.

FREEMAN: You find that, when you're writing a song?

FAITHFULL: Yeah, you can't always control — I can't, anyway — exactly what's going to happen. But some beautiful stuff is coming out. I'm very, very happy. I've done five songs, five lyrics, anyway. And I've got a few more to do.

FREEMAN: The gift for songwriting, lyric-writing, is that something that was inherent in you?

FAITHFULL: It seems to be, yes. It's not always ... it's not like a trap, I have to say. The last record I made, I found it very hard to write. But this one is going more smoothly. I'm not forcing myself in any direction. I'm accepting what God sends me.

FREEMAN: So do you tend to just wait.

FAITHFULL: Well, that's what I'm doing now. It's just fantastic. I've got to finish one. I can't be writing more than one at a time. When I finish it ... and I've settled, given myself a few weeks off, then another idea comes up.

FREEMAN: And do you tend to know right away when a song is finished?

FAITHFULL: No, no. I play around with it. Polish it up. Fuck about, you know.

FREEMAN: I have read that you never wanted to be a pop star.

FAITHFULL: No, of course not. Who'd want to do that? But it's where I went. It's what happened. And I reckon I've made the best of it.

FREEMAN: When you hate being recognized, how did you learn to live with all the attention, the fame?

FAITHFULL: Well, one of the things I decided, I suppose, is that what I didn't like was being in the charts and having hits. I hated mass success. I don't want to be like that. So I've gone the other way. I approach it like a jazz musician would, just trying to do really great work and leave that to speak for itself. So I'm not trying to be commercial or this or that, you know. Occasionally, I am commercial, in spite of that. But I don't want to be in that world, which I started in.

FREEMAN: What about revealing yourself through your art. Has that ever been difficult?

FAITHFULL: Oh, that's all right. I'm happy to do that. Yeah.

FREEMAN: There was never any self-consciousness about that, when you started?

FAITHFULL: Well, no, it wasn't like that, when I started. It was just being a little pop princess and having hits. And I didn't like the fame and the attention.

FREEMAN: It must have been overwhelming, early on, to be caught up in all of that.

FAITHFULL: Oh, it was awful, to be suddenly famous like that, having people ... Oh, I hated it. So now, as you can see, I'm very low-key about it all.

FREEMAN: "As Tears Go By" ? did you have an affinity for that song right away?

FAITHFULL: First thing I ever recorded. I didn't like it particularly, when I did it. But, over time, I've come to really love it. Now I do love it, yeah. It had to grow on me.

FREEMAN: And how did your involvement in the writing of The Stones' "Sister Morphine" come about?

FAITHFULL: Well, it's all in my book, man [Laughs]. It's just a tune that Mick kept playing around the house for about six months. And, in the end, I got so sick of it, I wrote those lyrics and said, 'Here, put it to that!' And he did. And it was 'Sister Morphine.' Yeah.

FREEMAN: Being around that dysfunctional Stones family for that time, in retrospect, did that relationship mean a lot to you, in terms of your artistic development?

FAITHFULL: [Laughs] Oh, yes! I learned so much.

FREEMAN: What sorts of things?

FAITHFULL: Well, I learned how to make records and how to write songs and lots of things ... how to take drugs.

FREEMAN: You've said that you viewed drug-taking as a means of disappearing.

FAITHFULL: I'm not going to bang on about drugs. [Laughs] I'm really not in the mood. I haven't taken drugs in a long time.

FREEMAN: I was just wondering whether you still had the urge to vanish sometimes.

FAITHFULL: No, no, no. I lead a very nice, quiet, anonymous life. I don't have to take anything to feel like that. I'm in Paris. I'm left alone. I have a lovely life.

FREEMAN: London in the '60s, it was such a fertile place for creativity. Was it exhilarating to be around all of that?

FAITHFULL: Well, it wasn't so great, being a woman. It was a very misogynistic world.

FREEMAN: So, it was difficult to be taken seriously as an artist?

FAITHFULL: No women were taken seriously as an artist. Even Nina Simone wasn't taken seriously.

FREEMAN: In that rebellious time, were you rebelling against anything?

FAITHFULL: Well, of course I was, yes. I can't remember what. But I'm sure I was. Yes.

FREEMAN: Though you're often associated with the '60s, you seem to be able to reflect every decade in which you've worked.

FAITHFULL: Yes, well, that was always very important to me to do that. I didn't want to just be associated with the '60s, great though it was, especially for the audience. I think it might have been better for the audiences than for the actual protagonists.

FREEMAN: Do you think it was just a willingness to grow and change that allowed you to do that?

FAITHFULL: Over the years? Yeah. But also a real determination to leave my mark on every decade I went through. To work. To work hard. And leave a mark. Yeah.

FREEMAN: When you returned with "Broken English," did you consider that a great risk? Or an artistic resurrection?

FAITHFULL: Well, that was something I had to do. I didn't think of it like that. I just knew I had to make that record. And I didn't care if I died after that. At least I would have left a record of who I was.

FREEMAN: And then, interpreting such a wide variety of songwriters' material.

FAITHFULL: I love doing that ... And I'm very good at it. That's one of the reasons I like it, you know.

FREEMAN: Do you find there's any common thread in terms of the kind of songs?

FAITHFULL: No. Not at all. I can do anything I want. If I really want to do something, I can find a way to do it.

FREEMAN: But in terms of why you want to do a particular song, is it usually the emotion, the honesty? What attracts you?

FAITHFULL: It can be a mixture of things. It can be something in the lyric. It can be something in the tune. I mean, there's a lot of things I love that I wouldn't dream of interpreting, because they're so perfect as they are. But, it's great fun doing covers.

FREEMAN: Working on "Strange Weather" —

FAITHFULL: That was a wonderful experience, too, yeah.

FREEMAN: Obviously you felt a great rapport for those songs.

FAITHFULL: Yes. ... I mean, it's not my favorite of my records, you know.

FREEMAN: Which is your favorite?

FAITHFULL: Well, my favorite, there are several things. I love "Vagabond Way." I love "Kissing Time." And I love "A Secret Life."

FREEMAN: And what is it about them?

FAITHFULL: I don't really know what it is, because they're all very different. But I just feel that I really succeeded in getting what I wanted on those records.

FREEMAN: You've been among the most memorable interpreters of Kurt Weill.

FAITHFULL: Oh, yes. Well, that's a natural gift, I think. From my mother, probably.

FREEMAN: Her dancing?

FAITHFULL: Yes. And living in Weimar, Germany. Yeah, I picked that all up.

FREEMAN: Did your mother encourage you at all?

FAITHFULL: No, she just wanted to forget about it. She hated the memory of that time, because, of course, it all turned into the second World War and she had a very hard time.

FREEMAN: Was she keen on your pursuing the artistic side of life?

FAITHFULL: I don't know. I mean, yes, she was all right. We never talked about it. I did what I had to do and she had to put up with it.

FREEMAN: And the acting, did you always enjoy immersing yourself in another persona?

FAITHFULL: Well, I've stopped that now. I'm cutting down on my work. I don't want to work so hard. So I'm not going to do anymore acting or film. But I do enjoy it. I did enjoy it, when I did it.

FREEMAN: Was that the element of it that you did enjoy, exploring of other characters, getting to be somebody else?

FAITHFULL: Yeah, I love being someone else. Not me.

FREEMAN: The self-destructive tendency, is that something you still have to battle in some ways?

FAITHFULL: Nah, I've learned how to cope with that now. It's something that's in a lot of people.

FREEMAN: You've explored so many artistic avenues. Is that a matter of just trying to keep yourself creatively stimulated?

FAITHFULL: No. It's not that hard. The main thing is to stay really well and be healthy. And I get a lot of help. I go to acupuncture. And I have lymphatic drainage massage. I eat really well. I do a lot of things that keep me well. I'm in really good form at the moment, because I've just found a really great acupuncturist. So that's very exciting. It's like a drug, actually, the way it makes me feel.

FREEMAN: Being able to be a survivor.

FAITHFULL: I'm more than a survivor. I'm a winner.

FREEMAN: Being able to persevere, is that just your nature?

FAITHFULL: Anyone can be a survivor. Any fool can survive all sorts of things. But there's more to it than that.

FREEMAN: And that would be?

FAITHFULL: It's knowing what you're doing. And knowing who you are and what you want. It's very different to just being a victim and surviving. That's not what I've done, actually.

FREEMAN: You don't waste time on regrets then?

FAITHFULL: No. Not at all. What a waste of my time that would be. I keep my head down and work hard.

FREEMAN: Projecting a particular image, has that ever meant much to you?

FAITHFULL: Oh, I never, never, never thought about that. That's what Andrew Oldham did. I mean, I probably should have thought more about it, because, of course, I've been through an awful lot of shit like that. People have been very nasty about me. And I probably should have paid more attention. But I never did.

FREEMAN: Any unfulfilled dreams or goals?

FAITHFULL: No, not really. I mean, I've cut down on a lot of things. I'm just still making records and performing. That's all I ever wanted. My shows sell out in an hour. Sometimes 15 minutes. Sometimes in five. That's what I wanted.

FREEMAN: It must be gratifying to have that kind of rapport —

FAITHFULL: It's fantastic! What more could I want?

FREEMAN: — Having had self-esteem issues.

FAITHFULL: The self-esteem is not bad at the moment. But it goes up and down. You'd be lying, if you said you were completely okay with all of it. [Laughs]

FREEMAN: So have you found a way to love yourself?

FAITHFULL: Oh, I think so, yeah. Mainly to be around people who love me. And who I love. That's what I need. I live a very sheltered, protected life, if I'm only around people who love me [Laughs]. I'm very lucky.

I hardly go out. If I don't put myself in situations where I might meet hostile people, I'm cool.

FREEMAN: You said once that you wanted to be remembered for being a nice person, rather than for what you've accomplished in the arts.

FAITHFULL: Well, I'd like to be remembered as a sort of okay person, who loves her friends and family and did good work. Yeah.

With these questions, I could bang on for hours, darling, but I've a friend here and I've got to go cook dinner. May I go and cook dinner now? [Laughs]

FREEMAN: [Laughs]. You may. I appreciate your taking the time and we're looking forward to seeing you in California.

FAITHFULL: I'm really looking forward to it, as well. And I'll be there soon.

Marianne Faithfull
Courtesy of Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull


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