Marianne Faithfull is one of the Sixties’ greatest fashion icons and the original rock chic.
Once every so often along comes a genuine style icon – someone with such originality and flare that they capture the attention of millions. A lot of younger girls (and boys) think Kate Moss invented the boho style, but it’s the wardrobe of Marianne Faithfull that originated this style. Marianne Faithfull’s life and wardrobe have made her a cultural phenomenon.
Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull, daughter of Eva, the Baroness Erisso, and Major Glynn Faithfull, a WWII British spy, was born on 29 December, 1946 in London. She was a bright, fashionable and lively teenager, who plunged in the London social scene. In 1964, barely 16, she began to take on gigs as a folk music performer in coffee houses.
Her career really began when she attended a Rolling Stones launch party and was discovered by Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Her first major release, As Tears Go By, was, in fact, written by Andrew Loog Oldham, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. More hit records followed, including Summer Nights and This Little Bird.
Marianne seemed to have it all, an instant career and she married John Dunbar on 6 May, 1965, with whom she got son Nicholas on 10 November the same year. But turmoil was on its way. Marianne fell in love with Mick Jagger and left her husband. Years later she told journalists: ‘My first move was to get a Rolling Stone as a boyfriend. I slept with three and decided the lead singer was the best bet.’
The start of her affair with Mick Jagger was also the start of Marianne’s use of drugs. The glamorous couple became a notorious component of the London Swinging scene.Marianne & the Stones .
Marianne & Mick Jagger
Marianne was found wearing only a fur rug by police executing a drug search at Keith Richards’ house in West Wittering, Sussex. In an interview 27 years later for Details, she discussed her wilder days and admitted that the drug bust fur rug incident was devastating to her personal life: ‘It destroyed me. To be a male drug addict and to act like that is always enhancing and glamorising. A woman in that situation becomes a slut and a bad mother’.
In 1968, now addicted to cocaine, she miscarried a daughter before ending her relationship with Jagger and losing custody of her son in 1970 – an incident which caused her mother to attempt suicide. Together with her personal life her career spiraled into a failure. She only made a few appearances, including a 1973 performance at NBC with David Bowie, singing Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe”.
She lived on London’s Soho streets for two years, suffering from heroin addiction and anorexia nervosa. In 1971, producer Mike Leander found her on the streets and made an attempt to revive her career, producing part of her album Rich Kid Blues. The album would take until 1985 for it to be appreciated.
Speaking of this time she’s astonished that she managed to survive: ‘It’s very, very strange to think about it. It was such a degraded moment, to live on a wall and shoot drugs’.
‘It was complete anonymity. I wanted to disappear – and I did. I wanted out. I wanted out of that world. It’s not that I didn’t love Mick, or I didn’t love the people in my life. I did. But I wasn’t cut out for all that. I certainly wasn’t cut out – although it is a great honour – to be a muse. It is a very hard job.’
Marianne the Muse & Fashion IconMarianne Faithfull wearing Ossie Clark dress Marianne wearing famous Ossie Clark snakeskin jacket
Her career restored in full force in 1979 with the album Broken English, one of her most praised albums. It was partially influenced by the punk explosion and her marriage to Ben Brierly of the punk band the Vibrators. A severe laryngitis, together with constant cocaine abuse, permanently changed Marianne’s voice, leaving it cracked and deeper in tone. While her new sound was praised as “whisky soaked” by some critics, a journalist of the Sunday Times, wrote that she had “permanently vulgarised her voice”.
Since then, Marianne Faithfull produced many records, appeared in movies and collaborated with famous photographers (pictures published in the Part Two)
Aside from her successful singing career, she also enjoyed success as an actress. In 1967 she starred in the film I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘is Name, in which she was the first ever to say the F-word in a movie. A year later, she amassed a cult following as the leather-clad motorcyclist in the French film The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968). After minor appearances in film and television in the 1970s, followed by a fourteen year hiatus, she made appearances as “God” in the adored and well received British-comedy series Absolutely Fabulous (1992). And in Sofia Coppola’s, Marie Antoinette (2006). Marianne played the part of Empress Maria Theresa. A year later, she starred in the film Irina Palm (2007), she played the central role of Maggie, a 60-year-old widow who becomes a sex worker to pay for medical treatment for her ill grandson. Her performance in the film was nominated a European Film Award for Best Actress.
Marie AntoinetteMarianne Faithfull as the mother of Marie Antoinette, Empress Maria Theresa Sofia Coppola & Marianne Faithful
The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968). A must see for all lovers of 1960s cult and retro British cinema.
Official website Marianne Faithfull: http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk