Few stars of the '60s have reinvented themselves as successfully as Marianne Faithfull. Coaxed into a singing career by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in 1964, she had a big hit in both Britain and the U.S. with her debut single, the Jagger/Richards composition "As Tears Go By" (which prefaced the Stones' own version by a full year). Considerably more successful in her native land than the States, she had a series of hits in the mid-'60s that set her high, fragile voice against delicate orchestral pop arrangements: "Summer Night," "This Little Bird," and Jackie DeShannon's "Come and Stay with Me." Not a songwriter at the outset of her career, she owes more of her fame as a '60s icon to her extraordinary beauty and her long-running romance with Mick Jagger, although she offered a taste of things to come with her compelling 1969 single "Sister Morphine," which she co-wrote (and which the Stones later released themselves on Sticky Fingers).
In the '70s, Faithfull split up with Jagger, developed a serious drug habit, and recorded rarely, with generally dismal results. This occurred until late 1979, when she pulled off an astonishing comeback with Broken English. Displaying a croaking, cutting voice that had lowered a good octave since the mid-'60s, Faithfull had also begun to write much of her own material, and addressed sex and despair with wrenching realism. After allowing herself to be framed as a demure chanteuse by songwriters and arrangers throughout most of her career, Faithfull had found her own voice, and suddenly sounded more relevant and contemporary than most of the stars she had rubbed shoulders with in the '60s. Faithfull's recordings in the '80s and '90s were sporadic and erratic, but generally quite interesting; Strange Weather, a Hal Willner-produced 1987 collection of standards and contemporary compositions that spanned several decades for its sources, was her greatest triumph of the decade. In 1994, she published her self-titled autobiography; the biography As Tears Go By by Mark Hodkinson is an objective and thorough account of her life and times.