Marianne Faithfull interview: The legendary singer on David Bowie, Adele, and the darkness after the Paris attacks

Faithfull is a singer and actress whose career has spanned six decades. She now lives in Paris and continues to make music

What music do you listen to?

I listen to classical music, jazz and the blues, and the few people I really like – Nick Cave and Damon Albarn, say.

We've just had the news about David Bowie. Do you have any personal memories of him that stand out?

We did that thing together called The 1980 Floor Show. Dave and I did "I Got You Babe". I was wearing a nun's costume and he was wearing whatever he was wearing at the time. I liked Dave; he was a friend. I'd known him practically since he was a baby. He was at the bottom of the bill on a tour I did, back when he was still David Jones. The Hollies were top, I was in the middle: the token chick. Now, the Hollies, they were a proper band.

What do you think of today's female pop stars?

Well, I don't know who they are.

How about Adele?

Not my thing. I respect her, I think she's great in a way. She's got a very beautiful voice for sure. And she's no fool.

Do you think things are better for women in the music industry now compared to back when you started?

Women are much more important in the industry now. When I started, we were just decorative. Apart from Dusty. But most weren't that interesting and they could've been. Lulu had an amazing bluesy voice but she wasn't allowed to use it. Women have basically taken over the industry. Amy Winehouse is a great example, I adored her. I met her at some do in London. I was longing to say, "Straighten up!" But unless somebody wants to change, there's nothing you can do.

Do you think there's a problem with artists being chewed up and spat out?

I think the worst example is Kurt Cobain. He was worked much too hard… Ah! My plumber has arrived! Un moment, s'il vous plaît… Merci monsieur!… Le plombier est un ange!… What a relief! I've had only cold water for days now. I'm almost 70, I have arthritis and I've had three nasty falls. I find a hot bath very healing.

You were saying about Kurt Cobain...

Yes, where were we? He was obviously very fragile. He was pretty much worked to death. Not everybody wants that life.

You've had your problems with drugs. Does the music industry have a moral duty to provide artists more support?

Are you joking? The words music industry and moral don't go together. Some people of course are very lucky and have great management. I'm one of them. Mind you, I don't make much money. I make beautiful records and put on great shows. But they don't drive me like a workhorse. I work when I want to.

You lived in London for years. Why did you move to Paris?

There are many things about the UK that disgust me. The class system for one. It's like going back to Dickensian times.

Do you find Paris more egalitarian?

In its own way it's just as bad. I have a lot of wonderful friends here, which is one reason I stay. But then I have a lot of wonderful friends everywhere.

Do you think November's terror attack will permanently scar the city?

There's still a darkness here, definitely. It was dreadful, especially at the Bataclan, where I've played. They were attacking the things they really hate: music, and kids flirting and drinking in cafés.

Knowing what you know now, what one piece of advice…

People don't want advice and don't take it. Don't take drugs and drink, I suppose.

I was going to say, what advice would you give to yourself at 17?

Well it was a difficult time to be so pretty, so I'd say be careful not to attract the wrong men. I can't think of anything else. I've had a great life. I've had my ups and downs, but it's been wonderful.


Marianne Faithfull, 69, is a singer and actress whose career has spanned six decades. She had a four-year relationship with Mick Jagger in the 1960s, and an equally high-profile struggle with drug use in the 1970s. She now lives in Paris and continues to make music. She will perform at London's Roundhouse on 2 February as part of a new intimate music series 'In The Round'. Tickets out now.