Born on January 21, 1972 in Atlanta, Georgia, Cat Power was part of the indie scene of her home city and New York before releasing her debut Dear Sir. With work that has an acoustic feel, she’s released several lauded albums over the years, including You Are Free and The Greatest, while also struggling publicly with alcoholism and depression. She released the empowering, electronic Sun in 2012.
The woman who would come to be known as Cat Power was born Charlyn Marie Marshall on January 21, 1972 in Atlanta, Georgia. Having cited a tumultuous childhood, Marshall left high school to perform in Atlanta under her stage moniker, making a name in the underground music scene. She moved to New York City in 1992, developing further indie music connections, and at the end of 1994 recorded material that would comprise her first two albums, Dear Sir (1995) and Myra Lee (1996), which is named after her mother. She was signed to Matador Records in 1996, and the same year released What Would the Community Think?
Moon Pix dropped in 1998, and Cat Power's 2000 album, The Covers Record, featured stark, radical remakes of songs from artists like Nina Simone, Michael Hurley and the Rolling Stones. This was followed by 2003's You Are Free, which features input from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Dave Kohl of the Foo Fighters.
Power's smoky, subterranean vocals and fusion of sounds—her music blends folk, country, blues, punk and avant-garde pop—earned her a devoted following. Yet she was also known for off-kilter behavior during her concerts, fueled in part by substance abuse. She'd struggled for years with alcohol, citing that she'd started drinking at an early age, and used other drugs as a teen and during non-stop touring to support her albums. In 2005, suffering from severe depression, she was aided by a friend and hospitalized in Miami for a breakdown.
Despite these challenges, Power worked on her sobriety while supporting and touring for 2006's The Greatest, a lauded album that featured languidly textured melodies framed by a Memphis soul sound, with accompaniment from Al Green musicians Mabon "Teenie" Hodges and Leroy "Flick" Hodges. Two years later, Power dropped Jukebox, a second collection of covers showcasing classics from Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell and Hank Williams, with songs like "New York," "Blue" and "Ramblin' Wo(man)."
In Recent Years
A biography on Power, Cat Power: A Good Woman—for which the singer refused to be interviewed—was published in 2009. During this period, she was also in a relationship with actor Giovanni Ribisi, which ended after four years.
In 2012, Power released Sun. The album—which she wrote, played all instruments on, and produced (with subsequent mixing by Phillippe Zdar) in a variety of studios—goes in a pointedly electronic direction and focuses on themes of self-awareness, global connectedness and spirituality.
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