Marianne Faithfull Expresses Herself Faithfull's latest album, Easy Come, Easy Go, covers more ground than ever before. The veteran singer interprets songs by Randy Newman, The Decemberists, Dolly Parton and many others. To her, recording a cover is more about expressing the song than trying to emulate the original.
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Marianne Faithfull Expresses Herself

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Marianne Faithfull Expresses Herself

Marianne Faithfull Expresses Herself

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In a 2005 interview with NPR's Scott Simon, Marianne Faithfull remembered being thrust onto the music scene in the early 1960s, at the age of 17. She was munching on hors d'oeuvres at a party and was approached by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham.

M: Can you sing? I said, mm-mm, I can, mm-mm.


M: And I think about a week later, I got a telegram from Andrew saying, be at Olympic Studios at 2 o'clock, such and such address, London. And that's where we did "As Tears Go By."


M: (Singing) Smiling faces I can see, but not for me, I sit and watch as tears go by.

HANSEN: In 1987, she released a triumphant collection of covers called "Strange Weather."


M: (Singing) But if I can save you anytime, come on, give it to me. I'll keep it with mine.

HANSEN: Producer Hal Willner was Faithfull's partner in crime for "Strange Weather." Now, two decades later, they're together again for a new CD, "Easy Come, Easy Go: 12 Songs for Music Lovers."


M: (Singing) My mama said I'm wonderful. She did not believe me when I told her that everything would be all right 'cause soon you would be coming down from Dover.

HANSEN: Marianne Faithfull joins us from our studios at the BBC in London. Welcome to this program. It's nice to talk to you.

M: Thank you very much. It's lovely to talk to you.

HANSEN: Just after you released your last studio album in 2005, "Before the Poison," you spoke...

M: "Before the Poison."

HANSEN: ...right - you spoke to NPR and at the time, you said that you were setting out to make the darkest Marianne Faithfull record that's ever been made.

M: Well, I think I did.

HANSEN: So, by contrast, what's the color scheme you envisioned for "Easy Come, Easy Go"?

M: On "Easy Come, Easy Go," both Hal and I are in a much better place in our lives, and we've got a - it's actually coming out of a very happy place. So it's not at all the darkest album I've ever made.


M: (Singing) Ooh, baby, baby. Ooh, baby, baby.

HANSEN: It is an amazing collection, and it's such a broad range of artists. I mean, you've got Dolly Parton's song from the late '60s, "Down from Dover." I mean, "Ooh Baby," Smokey Robinson, Randy Newman, "Germany Before the War." Was there a song that you found particularly challenging to interpret?

M: Oh yeah. "Solitude," Duke Ellington's song, which has been sung by everybody, but I listened to the Billie Holiday version.


BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) In my solitude, you haunt me...

HANSEN: Was it hard not to sound like Billie Holiday when you were singing "Solitude"?

M: Well, no, because nobody sounds like Billie Holiday. You can't copy it. I know people try to, but I've never tried to. I sing it as me.


M: (Singing) I sit in my chair and filled with despair, there's no one could be so sad.

M: What I'm doing is expressing the song and in my own emotional connections, you know?

HANSEN: You did it in one take.

M: Yeah, I was very lucky to do that. It's the only one we actually did in one take, but it is the hardest.


M: (Singing) Dear Lord above, send me back my love.


M: (Singing) In Germany before the war, there was a man who owned a store.

HANSEN: "In Germany Before the War," the Randy Newman song, I mean, it reminds me so much of Kurt Weill, Brecht, Lotte Lenya. I mean, and you have done...

M: I've done a lot of that, yes, I had a whole period of my life where I recorded 20th century blues. I used to put that out as a show called the Weimar Cabaret. And then I recorded "The Seven Deadly Sins," which I still perform from time to time.


M: (Singing) I'm looking at the river, but I'm thinking of the sea. I'm thinking of the sea.

HANSEN: Do you have an infinity, though, for the work of Weill?

M: Oh, I love Lotte Lenya, yeah. I grew up listening to Lotte Lenya. My mother and my father really liked the work of Brecht and Weill. And my father loved Marlene Dietrich. So, I'm very, very lucky, what I grew up in.

HANSEN: You've performed Shakespeare sonnets on stage?

M: Mm, I've had a little show just an hour long with a very, very good cellist called Vincent Segal. And I'd been going around Europe in a beautiful Balenciaga dress, sitting at a table, reading about 21 sonnets and Vincent playing in between.

HANSEN: What is the relationship you see between acting and singing?

M: Well, I think they both spark off each other, but they're different. I love acting, and I do use my acting skills in my music. And I'm sure I use my music skills in my acting, but I couldn't really tell you specifically how.

HANSEN: It seems like both are about storytelling.

M: Yes, and emotion.


M: (Singing) The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom. I stood up to say goodbye, like all the rest.

HANSEN: There are some incredible players, as well as songs on this...

M: Indeed, there are.

HANSEN: Sean Lennon.

M: Yeah, very good musician.

HANSEN: Marc Ribot.

M: Yeah.

HANSEN: Teddy Thompson, Rufus Wainwright. And the last thing I ever expected Marianne Faithfull to sing was a song by Merle Haggard.


M: Well, yeah. But it's such a great song, you know?

HANSEN: Yeah, "Sing Me Back Home."

M: Yeah.

HANSEN: And who's that on...

M: Keith.

HANSEN: Yeah, Keith Richards.

M: Yeah.

HANSEN: Yeah. Man, you've known him for such a long time.

M: I think it's 45 years now.

HANSEN: Oh my goodness.

M: Yeah.

HANSEN: This is an emotional song.

M: It is very emotional. It's the only one that really sort of slightly brings tears to my eyes. I'm not a - I try not to show my feelings, you know, when I'm in public, which is hard once you sing. And I'm certainly not very nostalgic at all, but with this song I do have nostalgic feelings, and I do get very emotional. I can't really hide it.


M: (Singing) They came into sing a few old gospel songs, and I heard him tell the singer, there's a song my mama sang. Won't you sing it once before I move along?

HANSEN: So, what was it like in the studio to record it?

M: Well, I wasn't there. I recorded it first with my band, and Hal Willner sent the MP3 to Keith, and he heard it and really liked it and liked my voice and liked the recording, and then went into a studio with Hal and put down his guitar and his vocal.

HANSEN: Oh, and here I am having, you know...

M: You've got a fantasy.

HANSEN: I do, yeah.

M: Yeah.

HANSEN: A fantasy of the two of you in the studio.

M: Well, don't worry. Keep it.

HANSEN: Okay. Is it because it might happen?

M: No.


M: But just 'cause it's a nice fantasy.


HANSEN: So, where do you go from here? What are you going to do next?

M: I'm going to - coming to America on Thursday, flying to New York, playing two shows at the City Winery in Manhattan. And then I'll be staying in New York until about the 4th to do promo and some television - I'm doing David Letterman - and I'm very excited, you know?

HANSEN: Marianne Faithfull, her new CD, "Easy Come, Easy Go: 12 Songs for Music Lovers," is released on Decca Records this Tuesday. She joined us from our studios at the BBC in London. Thank you so much.

M: Thank you very much.


M: (Singing) ...before I die.

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.


M: (Singing) ...before I die.

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