Marianne Faithfull 88.
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Not many people have seen and experienced what Marianne Faithfull has in her lifetime and lived to tell about it. She's like the anti-Forrest Gump. With over 40 years under her belt as both a singing star and actress, Faithfull has survived heroin and cocaine addictions, a sordid liaison with The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, homelessness, breast cancer and hepatitis C, only to emerge weathered but determined to carry on.
And as she ages, her stock continues to rise in the eyes of the music and film community. Her most recent contemporary albums, 2002's Kissin' Time, and 2005's Before the Poison, featured the cream of rock talent who clamored to pay her homage, like Beck, Billy Corgan, Jarvis Cocker, Dave Stewart, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. In equally illustrious film developments, after appearing as Empress Maria-Theresa in Sofia Coppola's 2006 biopic, Marie-Antoinette, she received a best Actress nomination at 2007's Berlin Film Festival for her role in the independent film Irina Palm as Maggie, a widow who becomes a sex worker to pay for medical treatment for her ill grandson. Not your every day career choices for a 61-year-old woman who admits the wild life of her youth is far behind her.
"I'm feeling great. I'm fully recovered, and am just looking out after myself. I'm really lucky," she told The Jerusalem Post from Paris, referring to her successful battle with breast cancer in 2006.
"I split my time between Paris and Dublin - they complement each other nicely - elegant Paris and dirty old Dublin," she laughs in a husky chortle, a hoarse voice which since her landmark 1979 album Broken English has become something of a career trademark.
She's a far cry from the partying crown princess of swinging London, which she was dubbed in the 1960s - a mini-skirted, high booted blond image that sparked the Barnaby Street fashions of the day and that still fuels Austin Powers' randy dreams.
"I don't drink or do drugs anymore, so I'm not much fun," she laughs. "Tel Aviv is a real jumping city, but since I don't go out to nightclubs, I'd rather stay inside, take care of myself and rest," she added, referring to her impending visit to Israel this weekend where she'll perform at the International Woman's Festival at the Holon Theater on Friday, March 7 and on Sunday the 9th at Zappa in Tel Aviv.
Her show is entitled "Songs of Innocence and Experience," and since she burst onto the pop scene in 1964 with her pristine version of the Stones' "As Tears Go By," those qualities have always stood out in her work, with the "experience" aspect gradually overwhelming everything else.
Embraced as a new wave pioneer with the raw Broken English which followed years in the addiction netherworld, Faithfull branched out in the 1980s. She tackled Kurt Weill on a 1985 tribute album, and jazz and blues with her acclaimed 1987 album Strange Weather, produced by Hal Willner, who's also behind the helm of her upcoming release Easy Come Easy Go, due in November.
"On this tour - which also stops in Turkey and Greece - I can do whatever I like since I'm not promoting a record," said Faithfull. "Obviously, I'll do a lot of the old favorites because I wouldn't deny anybody that, but we've also worked up some interesting stuff that I'm not sure people will know," she added, citing the song she sang at The Rolling Stones' legendary 1968 Rock & Roll Circus "Something Better," and a Harry Nilsson song "Don't Forget Me" which features the line "When we're old and full of cancer, it doesn't matter now, come on, get happy."
"It's primarily an acoustic band, not really rock and roll, although we rock out on occasion," she added. Faithfull says her music career takes precedent over her intermittent film career, which is full of offers following her work in Irina Palm.
"I really enjoyed Irina Palm. It was a low-budget film with a great script and good casting. It was very interesting for me because I like playing characters nothing like me, and Maggie is nothing like me," she said. Besides the Berlin nomination, she also received the Liv Ullmann Award for Film Acting upon its debut in Norway, an award "which is sitting on my coffee table here as we speak."
"I seem to be in demand - the trouble is I don't have the time now to do any films. I just finished the record, which I'm really pleased with. But I'll be spending the next two years working hard on promoting that with tours and interviews. I can't cram everything in anymore. One of the results of my illness is being told to take time off. So I'm not sure when I'll have time to do my next film," she said.
"Anyway, while it's lovely getting awards and being recognized for my acting, I'm really a musician. Maybe I would have been an actress if I hadn't fallen into the pop world. But I'm not sure I'm film star material. I love singing, making records, and performing. It's just the travel I don't like."
And that includes sightseeing - even in Israel.
"On previous vists, I've been to Yad Vashem - just horrific - and the Dead Sea. In fact I still use Dead Sea salts. But I don't really feel the need to sightsee."
Faithfull, like a true diva who has earned the right to rest, prefers that the world revolved around her axis and not the other way around. And there's no reason to think that force of nature will stop any time soon.