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Lady Sings the Blues: a Portrait of Marianne Faithfull by Jess Buns of Yoni Yum

mf2incredible drawing by Jess Buns

“When I listen to Marianne Faithfull, I can hear the blues in her voice. In her book, she speaks about having always had the blues, and how she couldn’t bear it if she didn’t have ’em. I feel that way often; perhaps that is why I am drawn to her music and feel so connected to it. You can hear her pain and struggle, her frustration in songs like “Sister Morphine,” “Brain Drain” and “Broken English”. Hearing the transformation of her voice from album to album is intoxicating. I am so grateful that her music came into my life and can’t wait to cover her songs at Girl Germs! She’s the smokey rock and roll goddess I hope to be one day.” – Jess Buns of Yoni Yum

Marianne Faithfull’s music has long been steeped in a bitter amalgam of heartbreak and personal despair. In the ‘60s the break of her career as a successful songwriter seemed inevitable, and for a while, it was. Her honeyed voice and demure presence exuded components of stardom and she gained traction releasing popular singles and even penning seminal songs like “Sister Morphine” for a certain Dartford quartet (The Rolling Stones). But severe ongoing drug addiction and tumultuous relationships blurred focus from Marianne, the promising, emotionally-charged musician and honed in on a woman who was losing her sense of being, both physically and spiritually. When Faithfull re-emerged full-force in 1979 with one of her most acclaimed albums “Broken English,” listeners were shocked by the drastic transformation years of drug abuse had implemented on her voice. Gone was the velvety resonance and in its place a deeper register and a weathered harshness.

But overpowering any of the aforementioned fluctuations was a woman (still flawed and still very much struggling) who had jerked the reigns of her life with every feeble ounce of strength that she had to spare. Her pain was palpable, and she harnessed her new vocal aesthetic like it was a proud battle scar. It’s worthy of note to mention that many male counterparts in rock ‘n’roll who had similar drug addiction struggles at the time were not held to task or pushed to the back of the shelf in the way that Marianne was as a female musician. Listening to her songs today is an emotional undertaking: the pain, rage, tenderness and unabashed hope nestled deep within darkness is a testament to Faithfull’s inherent bravery and cements her importance as one of the most inspiring female musicians of our time.

These truths are something that I know Jess holds holds a deep understanding and respect of. When I asked her to create this drawing (how talented is she?) and, really, anytime we’ve discussed Marianne thus far she’s expressed the kind of deeply-entrenched relationship that I can only understand in terms of myself with certain writers and musicians; it’s a relationship that’s equal parts agonizing and inspiring in the way that it dares you to create while simultaneously unlocking the paralyzing fear of failure or averageness. I think Marianne could relate to that assessment of her music and  I also think it’s evident that there couldn’t be a better local group to interpret this nuanced queen.

-Sally Hedberg

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