Return of two key ladies of rock

They’ve both traveled along rock music’s tougher road for some 40 years now. They sang about loneliness, fear, love and disappointment, explored difficult fields, and reacted with rage against demons that have tormented their lives. Marianne Faithfull and Patti Smith, both scheduled for performances in Greece this week, represent two unique cases in music history. Both were born in 1946, Faithfull in London and Smith in Chicago, and it seems that their star sign led them along a path in rock history covered in petals and thorns. Faithfull was discovered by the manager of the Rolling Stones, who had been impressed by her «angelic presence and incredible voice.» She launched her career at the age of 17 with a superb number, «As Tears Go By,» which was written by the Rolling Stones’ core duo, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Soon after, Faithfull became Jagger’s girlfriend and source of inspiration for many songs. It was a tumultuous relationship, but Faithfull did enjoy the bright lights of publicity. After beginning stylishly, Faithfull’s career eventually took a dip. Disappointment set in, the artist fell into silence and was swept by self-destructive tendencies, which peaked during a dark phase of drug abuse. Faithfull needed to hit rock bottom before signs of recovery began to emerge. In shambles, she hesitantly began to write her own songs. Though relatively limited, Faithfull’s discography contains unique moments of brilliance through interpretations of her own work as well as that of others, including Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, as well as younger artists such as PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, who penned songs for last year’s «Before The Poison» album. Throughout her career, Patti Smith has presented an entirely different type of female artist, one that has relied entirely on the artist and her work, with elements of sexuality kept well away. Since day one, Smith has maintained a rugged, anti-star image. She grew up in New Jersey immersed in the poems of Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, and the music of The Doors, Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground. Smith moved to New York City in the early ’70s and was active in the period’s avant-garde punk-rock scene. She released her debut album, «Horses,» in 1975, a work that introduced a cutting-edge artist propelled by fiery lyrics. Controversial lyrics on topics such as sex, god, and politics have made up an essential part of her work. Her most recent album, 2004’s «Trampin’» included the politically charged song «Radio Baghdad.» Smith, in a recent interview, said she hoped her next album will include hits from artists such as Dylan, the Grateful Dead and the late French diva Edith Piaf. Just days ago, in France, Smith was presented with the insignia of Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters by the country’s Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. The ministry, in a statement, noted Smith’s appreciation for 19th century French poet Rimbaud, and praised her as «one of the most influential artists in women’s rock ‘n’ roll.» Smith said she accepted the award «from the most spiritual side of me,» adding that «I have vowed to live up to this honor in my work and my conduct. I can’t explain what I feel like. It has uplifted me, and I will work very hard to earn it.» Patti Smith: Tomorrow at the Lycabettus Theater. Marianne Faithfull: Tonight, Patras (Old Odeon); Thursday, Thessaloniki (Mylos Club); Friday, Athens (Vrahon Theater).

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