Like Being Born


Sometimes I imagine what each of Marianne Faithfull’s songs would have sounded like in her younger voice. It’s easy to imagine. Her cadences haven’t changed much. Sometimes it I can almost hear the ghost of her younger self  still lying below. It’s a fun game, but it doesn’t change the fact that for Faithfull, burning up her vocal chords was a turn for the better. It enabled her to grow as an artist in a way she would have had a hard time doing if she still had the voice of a pretty angel. This song, for example, would have sounded ridiculous if she’d sung it at seventeen. It’s a song for a woman who has lived and who shows it. Songs about finding love and happiness are common and universal, but they hold different meaning depending on who sings them and how. When a seventeen year old convent girl sings about love, it’s nice, but it’s ordinary and expected. Finding love is what seventeen year old girls do. A song about finding love by a middle aged woman who has been through hell and back is an entirely different story. When Marianne Faithfull sings about finding love it feels like a well earned reward or a long longed for gift. It feels redemptive. And redemption has become a theme for Faithfull, more and more as she gets older. It’s the story of her life and the reason she’s one of the people I most admire in the world. Don’t misinterpret that; it’s not what you think. The redemption of Marianne Faithfull is not that she redeemed herself. She didn’t need to be redeemed and anyone who thinks so is probably the kind of person who believes that women should be punished for their life choices. Faithfull made her life choices, and some of them were pretty terrible ones, but that is no taint on her, no smear against her, no detraction from her human value. No, what Faithfull has done is redeem her own experiences. She’s taken every piece-of-shit terrible thing that life has thrown at her and used those things to become a better artist. Every horrible moment that she has been through in her long life has only added to her strength and value, as an artist and as a person. Because of her experiences, and her courage to share them in her inimitable way, she is an indispensable cultural figure.  There wouldn’t be a Marianne Faithfull as we know and love her, if she still had a pretty voice.

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