Marianne Faithfull Biography

Singer, Actress (1946–)
Winning fans with her sweet, melancholy sound, Marianne Faithfull is known for her legendary musical career and rock n’ roll lifestyle including battles with drugs, a relationship with Mick Jagger, and later reinvention.


Marianne Faithfull was born on December 29, 1946 in London, England. Her first single, "As Tears Go By," was produced by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham. Faithfull dated Mick Jagger for several years, embodying the 1960's rock 'n' roll lifestyle. She continues to release albums and has appeared in numerous theater productions and films.

Early Life

Singer, songwriter and actress Marianne Faithfull was born on December 29, 1946, in London, England. The daughter of an Austro-Hungarian baroness and a former British intelligence officer, she spent some of her early years at a communal farm established by her father. Her parents later split and Faithfull went with her mother to live in Reading. She started out as a singer in the 1960s when she was in her teens. 

Convent-educated Faithfull met Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones manager, at a party in 1964 while she was still in school. He produced her first hit, "As Tears Go By," which he helped to write, along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The song made a strong showing on both the British and American charts.

Relationship with Mick Jagger

Although she was mainly popular in her native England, Faithfull still managed to attract a worldwide following. Many people were won over by her soft, feathery voice and her youthful, naive appearance. But as the 1960s progressed, Faithfull became more famous for her personal life than for her music. She married art dealer John Dunbar in 1965, and they had a son later that year. But they soon grew apart and divorced. Then Faithfull was "swept off her feet" by Mick Jagger, according to an article in The Observer. They dated for several years, becoming one of rock 'n' roll's best known couples. Traveling the world, they led a jet-set lifestyle, which included extensive partying. One of the decade's biggest headlines focused on Faithfull being caught wearing nothing but a fur rug in a 1967 police raid of Keith Richard's home. Jagger and Richards faced drug charges as a result of the raid, and the incident damaged Faithfull's public image.

Despite her escalating substance abuse, Faithfull started an acting career. She appeared on stage in a production of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters in 1967 and William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1969), and in the film Girl on a Motorcycle in 1968. But by the end of the decade, Faithfull's personal and professional life was coming undone. The song "Sister Morphine," which she co-wrote with Jagger and Richards, is said to reflect this difficult time in her life. Due to its controversial drug references, her record company pulled the song. In despair over her situation, she attempted suicide while with Jagger in Australia. The couple later broke up, and she sank deeper into drug use.

Battling Addiction

In the 1970s, Faithfull was lost in her addiction for several years. She was reportedly homeless for a time and hospitalized several times. She did produce two earlier albums during this time, including a country album called Dreamin' My Dreams (1976), but nothing matched the critical success of 1979's Broken English, which marked Faithfull's musical rebirth. Her voice, roughed up by time and hard living, was emotionally expressive and captivating. The album, which incorporated elements of punk with modern dance music, earned her widespread praise. She continued to experiment with New Wave sounds in Dangerous Acquaintances (1981) and A Child’s Adventure (1983).

Still, the specter of drugs hung over Faithfull until the mid-1980s. Around this time, she went through extensive rehabilitation to end her decades-long problem. Her first album after becoming drug-free was Strange Weather (1987), which included a new recording of her greatest hit, "As Tears Go By." An ingenue no more, Faithfull's voice developed a rich, melancholic poignancy as she continued to experiment with musical innovations. The power of her performances was captured in Blazing Away, a live retrospective, which was released in 1990. 

Career Comeback

Faithfull resumed her acting career by appearing in a 1991 revival of The Threepenny Opera, written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. She went on to record two albums based on the works of Weill and Brecht— 20th Century Blues (1996) and the opera The Seven Deadly Sins (1998).

Since then, Faithfull has seamlessly moved between making music and acting. Continually creating interesting and innovative music, she released her album Vagabond Ways to critical acclaim in 1999.  She also recorded Kissin' Time (2002) which featured collaborations with many of alternative music's leading music makers, including Beck and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. On Before the Poison (2004), Faithfull sang about love and friendship and collaborated with artists, including PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. In 2004, she also returned to the stage in The Black Rider, a musical written by her friends Tom Waits and the late William Burroughs

Faithfull continued to act, appearing in a number of films, including Intimacy (2001), Marie Antoinette (2006; directed by Sofia Coppola), and the anthology film Paris, Je T'aime (2006; in which she was directed by Gus Van Sant). She also starred in the independent film Irina Palm (2007) for which she was nominated for a European Film Award for Best Actress. In 2008, Faithfull released Easy Come, Easy Go, an eclectic collection of cover songs, which was recorded at Sear Sound studios in New York City. In 2008 and 2009, she staged a series of special performances, reading a selection Shakespeare's love sonnets to cello accompaniment. 

Faithfull released her 19th album, Horses and High Heels, featuring a guest appearance by Lou Reed, in 2011. She returned to the stage in 2012 in a full production of The Seven Deadly Sins at the Landestheatre in Linz. The iconic singer-songwriter celebrated the 50th anniversary of her musical career with the 2014 release of Give My Love to London, which included more star-studded collaborations with Brian Eno and Roger Waters.

She has written extensively about her life including her autobiography Faithfull (1994) and Memories Dreams and Reflections (2007), a volume of memoirs. Images of her life and legendary career are also the subject of the photo book Marianne Faithfull: A Life On Record, which she edited with Francois Ravard.

Faithfull has also explored her family history, appearing on Who Do You Think You Are?, the BBC genealogy show, where she investigated her mother’s early life as a dancer in 1920s Berlin and her family’s involvement with the Austrian Resistance.

Health Issues

In 2006, Faithfull learned that she had breast cancer. The disease was caught during the early stages and she made a full recovery. The following year, she revealed that she had previously battled hepatitis C over the previous decade. In 2014, Faithfull broke her hip while vacationing in Greece. She developed an infection from the injury and subsequent surgery, which forced her to postpone a few of her 50th anniversary tour dates. Upon recovering, she went on the road again and plans to finish out 2016 by touring Europe.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!