She’s Marianne Faithfull, Damn It. And She’s (Thankfully) Still Here.
Faithfull has fashioned sticking around into a prolonged show of defiance — a radical act, for a woman. She did not come into her own musically until her mid-30s, with the release of her punky, scorched-earth 1979 masterpiece “Broken English.” In the subsequent decades, her artistry has only deepened, and she has gradually, grudgingly earned her respect (“I’m not just seen as a chick and a sexy piece anymore — though I should think not, I’m 74!”). Her anger about the industry and the media subsided a great deal in the time between her 1994 and 2007 memoirs. What happened?
“Just time, you know. From everything I know about life in general — which is probably not much — is that you have to get over those things, or they eat you up,” she said. “And I’m not going to let that happen. So I let it go. I don’t hold resentment anymore about the press.” She laughed, genially. “But of course I don’t let them near me, really!”
She has a lighter attitude, but Faithfull has not made it out of her latest battle without some lingering scars. She lost her dear friend and collaborator Hal Willner to the virus. And after initially feeling better, a few months ago she started feeling worse. She has since been experiencing the stubborn symptoms of long-haul Covid, which for her include fatigue, memory fog and lung problems.
She has been working diligently on her breathing; a close friend comes by weekly with a guitar to lead her in singing practice — her own version of the opera therapy that has shown promising results in long Covid patients. She’s been spending quality time with her son and grandson, reading (Miles Davis’s autobiography, among other things), and counting the days until she can once again go to the movies, the opera, the ballet. When she first got out of the hospital — après Covid, as she likes to call it — it seemed like Faithfull may never sing again. Now, she is looking forward to writing new songs, and envisioning what a return to the stage might look like.
“I’m focusing on getting better, really better — and I’m beginning to,” she said. “I’ll certainly never be able to work as hard as I was, and long tours are not going to be possible. But I do hope to do maybe five shows. Not very long — 40 minutes perhaps.” Still, she admitted, “It’s a long way away.”
Ellis said, “If anyone can do it, it’s Marianne, because she just doesn’t give up. She constantly surprises you.”