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PARIS — Marianne Faithfull is in higher spirits than you might think.
“On the whole, I’ve been pretty happy for years,” Faithfull muses over a glass of Coke Zero at the trendy Hôtel Costes in Paris. “But I haven’t been able to express it in my work, and I realized that I had to really spell it out for the audience very clearly: ‘I. Am. Happy.’ ”
This story first appeared in the January 24, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
To wit, the cover of her 23rd solo album, “Horses and High Heels,” due out Jan. 31, features a horse in a rainbow-colored landscape. If a strong current of nostalgia runs through many of the 13 tracks, it is counterbalanced by the presence of R&B covers like “Gee Baby,” “No Reason” and “Back in Baby’s Arms.”
At 64, Faithfull views her chaotic trajectory — from teenage pop princess to girlfriend of Mick Jagger, homeless junkie and redeemed icon — with a measure of equanimity. At this stage, she is even willing to let slide a few historical inaccuracies — but more on that later.
Fate has put her resilience to the test. Just as she had recovered from a cancer scare two years ago, her partner of 15 years, François Ravard, left her.
“He fell in love with someone else, and that was terribly painful,” says the performer, dressed in a black cardigan and quilted jeans from Chanel. “Now, time has passed and I’m reconciled and we’re friends and it’s cool.”
Ravard remains her manager, and Faithfull even found the strength to pen a song about the split: “Why Did We Have to Part” is one of five tracks she co-wrote on the album. She brings the same laid-back acceptance to other aspects of her life. For a long time, Faithfull suffered from the media myths spun around her — in particular, after the infamous drug raid on the Rolling Stones in 1967, when she was found naked under a fur rug and, according to legend, behaving improperly with a Mars chocolate bar.
“I would have loved to be able to let that go and not let it bother me, but it always did bother me,” she says. “It wasn’t good, and it’s not me.”
She credits Keith Richards with helping to dispel that fabrication, though the Rolling Stones guitarist recently added another chapter to the rich canon of Faithfull lore, courtesy of his best-selling memoir, “Life.” Faithfull says she “loved” the book but disputes his account of the one-night stand they had in the Sixties.
Richards contends they were both attached at the time: Faithfull to Jagger, and he to model Anita Pallenberg.
Faithfull is sticking to the account she published in her 1994 autobiography, “Faithfull,” saying the fling happened before she got together with Jagger.
“I’ve decided to not trouble myself, you know. It’s Keith’s memories. If that’s how he wants to remember it, then he should, and my memory is quite different,” she says. “He’s turned it into a revenge f–k. It wasn’t like that, but never mind — I don’t care. Anyway, I think it’s such a great thing he [wrote his book] that I’m not going to criticize.”
She is looking forward to sending him a copy of “Horses and High Heels” along with “a very nice fax — Keith doesn’t do e-mail.”
Faithfull, who no longer wears heels, says she picked the title because it sounded pleasantly absurd — though she sent Manolo Blahnik an advance copy.
“He’s so delighted with it. He plays it all the time, very loud,” she says.
As she gears up for a three-month tour starting in France in March, the singer is looking forward to donning the Chanel outfits that Karl Lagerfeld designed for her to wear onstage.
“It’s my look, really: black trousers, beautiful shirts and a jacket. It’s very simple,” she explains.
Now if she could just give up her last vice: smoking.
“I’m worried about it,” Faithfull mutters as she fires up a cigarette. Coming from a woman who has kicked heroin, that might seem like something of a paradox, but she is serious — as much as her dry British wit will allow.
“I suppose I would prefer not to die of emphysema,” she ponders, before dissolving into a throaty laugh.