Faith in the future | Monocle

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Marianne Faithfull has just made me a cup of milky lapsang souchong in her lemon-yellow kitchen on Paris’s Left Bank. “We’re going to the bedroom,” she bellows in her gravelly, clipped English tones, ushering us down a narrow corridor. “This is where I read, talk on the phone, watch television and sleep,” says the 70-year-old musician as she climbs slowly – porcelain mug in hand – onto her large, gilded antique bed and reclines against a pile of white-cotton pillows. “It’s a peaceful room,” she adds, applying some pink lipstick.

Beside her is a black Chanel handbag, a remote control and a pile of books by authors ranging from Walt Whitman to Aldous Huxley, suggesting diverse interests. On an adjacent wall is a work by Australian pop artist Martin Sharp. “That’s one of my favourite artworks,” says Faithfull. “It was a gift of course, from Martin. Everything in my collection was given to me. Did you see the Richard Hamilton silk screen in the living room?”

It’s perhaps a surprise that a woman synonymous with the Swinging Sixties now leads such a quiet life, with her days spent visiting friends, going for walks around the nearby jardin and tending to the potted flowers on her neat little terrace. “I am naturally quite austere,” she says from inside a cloud of Marlboro Gold smoke.

It wasn’t always so. As the girlfriend of Mick Jagger in the 1960s, Faithfull inspired Rolling Stones songs such as “Wild Horses” and found success singing hits, including “As Tears go By”. It was a life of excess: in the 1967 Redlands drugs raid on the home of Keith Richards she was famously found wearing nothing but a fur rug. Following her split from Jagger, Faithfull spent much of the 1970s as a heroin addict on the streets of Soho.

Today she is ambivalent about her role as a muse. “It’s as if somebody plugs into your head and takes your dreams,” she says of her days with Jagger. “I felt like I was living with a vampire. But I am not going to bitch and moan about being a muse – I’m quite proud of it, actually. I did contribute a lot. It just can be very destructive.”

Despite this, Faithfull is still keen to collaborate. For her most recent studio album, 'Give my Love to London', she worked with the likes of Nick Cave, Anna Calvi, Roger Waters and Steve Earle. Her oeuvre has a fallen-from-grace quality, quite like her frank and somewhat brusque demeanour. “I am fed up of being looked at,” she says. “I want to do the looking.”

Faithfull says she is “much more circumspect” these days, yet she hasn’t lost her bold approach. Last year she was one of a number of musicians who performed at the Bataclan music hall to commemorate the 2015 massacre in which 90 people were murdered by terrorists. She was inspired by the resilience of Paris itself and included in her set a song that she composed in response to the attacks, “They Come at Night”. “France, and Paris in particular, have seen so many terrible things, from the [1572] St Bartholomew’s Day massacre to the Revolution and Terror,” she says. “Terrible, terrible things have happened – and they recover.”

The admiration is mutual: in 2011 she was awarded the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, one of the country’s highest cultural honours. Although she insists that she is not in the least bit nostalgic for her heyday, Faithfull says it was in the mid-1960s that she first fell in love with the capital. “I remember thinking then: ‘This is where I want to end up,’” she says. “I always had a lovely time in Paris."

The CV

1946 Born in London
1964 First solo hit, the Jagger/Richards composition “As Tears go By”, is released
1979 Releases Broken English, her most critically acclaimed album
2007 Stars in the film Irina Palm, for which she received a nomination for best actress at the European Film awards
2014 Releases her 20th and most recent studio album, Give my Love to London

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