Marianne Faithfull: Keeping the faith

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the fall of 2009.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With a new album released this past November, the legendary Marianne Faithfull is on a US tour that will hit the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on September 26

 “I’ve already played in America and it went very well,” said Faithfull. “Now I’m back to do a proper tour.”

The album, “Easy Come, Easy Go,” consists of 12 cover songs the music icon handpicked herself, including The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife 3,” Espers’ “Children Of Stone,” Morrissey’s “Dear God Please Help Me.”

“I love the record and I’m very proud of it,” she said. “I want to help it as much as I can which is why I’m touring so much.”

Faithfull said she is very excited about touring and has the rhythm section from the album on tour with her.

“I’ve got a wonderful band,” she said. “We have a beautiful set list. We did it all summer through my tour of Europe. I’m really happy to get the chance to do this in America too.”

She said she chose to do a covers album because she has had a bit of trouble writing new material but was ready to get in the studio to record and take it on the road.

“I wasn’t able to write recently,” said Faithfull. “I’m a bit dried up for the moment, but hopefully I’ll get it back.”

In the meantime, producer Hal Willner worked with her on the compilation album.

“Hal and I did a record like that before called, ‘Strange Weather,’ but it was very different than this one,” Faithfull said. “So, we thought we’d do another.”

In addition to working with Willner, Faithfull also had Sean Lennon play on ‘Easy Come, Easy Go.’

“He plays guitar and sings on, ‘Give You Pleasure,’” she said. “He’s a very good guitarist. John would be very proud.”

Another musician Faithfull said she got the chance to record with on her new album was her “guitar playing friend” Keith Richards.

“It was wonderful working with Keith on this record,” Faithfull said. “He worked with me on a Burl Ives song, ‘Sing Me Back Home.’ Keith’s a great guy.”

Faithfull originally hooked up with Richards and The Rolling Stones back in the 1960s when they wrote her the song. “As Tears Go By.During that time, she said it was difficult being a woman in the music industry.

“It was very hard to be a female in rock n roll in the 60’s because there was a lot of misogyny,” Faithfull said. “I don’t think it’s quite as bad now, but it must be still there.”

She said she does not feel the same kind of pressure she used to feel mainly because she does not let it bother her anymore.

“When I was young it affected me a lot,” she said. “But I wasn’t alone and I got through it. There were more than a few highly intelligent, very honest, interesting female singers out there with me.”

Faithfull grouped herself in with artists like Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, and Carole King.

“I somehow go along in there,” she said. “You could actually be yourself and not make yourself a construct for the pleasure and delight of men. That’s a freedom. We’ve carved out a new sort of niche.”

She said her all time favorite female singer is Billie Holiday and she paid a tribute to Holiday on “Easy Come, Easy Go” by covering the classic song “Solitude.”

“I just love everything about her,” Faithfull said. “I love her voice and I love the mood she can create.”

Faithfull can create moods all her own whether she is singing or acting.

“I love acting,” she said.

She has played characters such as Ophelia from “Hamlet,” God, and even the Devil.

“I played the Devil in ‘Black Rider,’ a musical play written by William S. Burroughs with music and songs by Tom Waits and directed by Robert Wilson,” she said. “That was wonderful.”

One thing she said wasn’t wonderful was the process of writing her autobiography, ‘Faithfull.’

“I wrote one real autobiography and it was very difficult,” she said. “The other one I wrote was more of a memoir and it’s much less depressing.”

She said although her personal life has overshadowed her career in the past, it doesn’t overshadow it now because she has made it that way.

“I don’t see myself as a victim,” she said. “It’s tempting fall into the role of the victim because it’s easy, but that’s not a good idea. Never stay a victim-ever.”

Not only has she fought to move beyond her mistakes of the past, including drug addiction, Faithfull is a cancer survivor.

“I’m very pleased to be a survivor because I’ve turned it all around,” she said.  “I think I’ve won actually. I’m a winner as well as a survivor.”

She said she continues to have a positive outlook on life and is happy to be where she is in her career.

“I’ve always thought that the point of being a survivor is to turn it into something really good,” Faithfull said. “If I can do it anyone can.”

Although rumors have been flying about her retiring, she said she is not ready to give up singing.

“Sometimes I say I’d like to retire and I do think about it but I don’t really mean it,” laughed Faithfull. “I’ll get there at some point, but not yet.”

When she is not on tour, Faithfull resides in both Paris and Ireland.

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