As Tears Go By sung by Marianne Faithfull.
The Coronavirus is hitting my generation’s musical icons exceptionally hard. This week came the news from London that Marianne Faithfull is battling the bug. Faithful exploded on the music scene in 1964 as 17 year old blonde beauty with a sweet soprano singing voice with a trace of a vibrato. From the beginning she fell in with a fast crowd in Swinging London including the Rolling Stones and their front man Mick Jagger who co-wrote her break out hit As Tears Go By and went on to have a tumultuous five year affair with her. Not only did she score big in England she became the leading female performer of the British Invasion on this side of the Atlantic.
She was born December 29, 1946 in north London. Her father was Major Robert Glynn Faithfull, was a British intelligence officer and professor of Italian Literature at Bedford College of London University as well as something of a Bohemian. He mother was an Austrian aristocrat styled herself as Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso but was half Jewish and had once been a dancer in productions of works by the German theatrical duo Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Her family was also connected to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose erotic novel, Venus in Furs, spawned the word masochism.
The family moved to Ormskirk, Lancashire the north of England while her father worked on a doctorate from Liverpool University. They also spent time at a commune at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, formed by Dr. John Norman Glaister. Her parents divorced when she was just six years old and she moved with her mother to Milman Road in Reading. Living in greatly reduced circumstances, Faithfull’s child hood was marred by bouts of tuberculosis. She was a charitably subsidized student pupil at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Convent School and was, for a time, a weekly boarder and a member of the student Progress Theatre group.
Out of school by age 17 she made a bee line exciting London performing as a folk singer in small coffee houses and clubs in 1964. Falling easily into the hip young London scene she attended a Rolling Stones launch party and met Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stone’s manager and producer who discovered her. Within week Oldham, Keith Richards and Jagger co-wrote As Tears Go By for her which peaked at # nine on the UK singles chart. A string of other successful single followed including This Little Bird, Summer Nights, and Come and Stay With Me.
Marianne Faithful were the hottest celebrity couple in swinging London in the late 1960's
In the midst of all this success Faithfull married John Dunbar in May 1965 and she gave birth to son Nicholas in November. Not long after the birth she left Dunbar to begin a relationship with Jagger. They became probably the biggest celebrity couple making the rounds of all the London hot spots. Inevitably the lifestyle led to heavy drug use. By 1966 to the delight of the insatiable tabloid press she was arrested in a drug bust at Keith Richards’s house wrapped only like that is always enhancing and glamorizing. A woman in that situation becomes a slut and a bad mother.” Two years later and a full blown cocaine addict she miscarried Jagger’s daughter at his Irish estate.
Jagger and Richards were inspired to write some of the Stones’s best known songs of the period by Faithfull including You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Wild Horses, and I Got the Blues. In turn she co-wrote Sister Morphine with the pair but it took a nasty, protracted court battle to receive writing credits and the publishing royalties that went with it.
Faithfull in 1970 just before her downfall.
Faithfull was in a steep downward spiral. In 1970 her relationship with Jagger crashed. She was too unreliable to record or tour. She lived on the Soho streets for two years, suffering from heroin addiction and anorexia nervosa. The addiction and prolonged laryngitis permanently altered her voice, leaving it cracked and lower in pitch. She was in and out of rehab most of the decade and would suffer relapses even later. She squatted in a Chelsea flat without hot water or electricity with then-boyfriend Ben Brierly, of the punk band the Vibrators and later shared flats in Chelsea and Regent’s Park with model Henrietta Moraes.
In 1979 she was arrested for marijuana possession in Norway. But here career began a recover that year with the release of a new album, the punk influence Broken English and the title track which addressed terrorism in Europe was dedicated to Ulrike Meinhof of the German anarchist Badder-Meinhof Gang. The album was critically praised and commercially successful. Her new raspy voice was praised as authentic. Faithfull’s brief marriage to Brierly which had helped inspire the song and style quickly broke up.
Since 1980 Faithful has regularly recorded new albums about every three years, all of them critically successful. But her life remained turbulent. One boyfriend Howard Tose, a dual diagnosed depressive and addict who she met in a Cambridge, Massachusetts rehab facility leapt to his death crashing through 14th floor window of the apartment they shared.
Faithful receiving the Women's World Award in Vienna in 2009
In 2009 a fifteen year relationship with her manager François Ravard ended after he was arrested for making a drunken scene at a London’s Gatwick Airport.
Despite acclaim and some success, Faithful has been plagued with health problems including collapsing on stage in Milan in 2004 reportedly of exhaustion; breast cancer in 2006: years of suffering from Hepatitis C probably from needle sharing in her days of addiction; a back injury in 2013; a broken hip sustained on a Greek vacation in 2014 all before she was hospitalized with pneumonia on April 4 and quickly diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
Faithful on a recent red carpet.
Faithfull has shown herself to be a tough resilient survivor. Let’s hope she is again.