Lifelong friends Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg were “It Girls” of Swinging Sixties London. Faithfull was a husky-voiced chanteuse with a royal lineage who was introduced to the Stones via their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. The seemingly demure, fragile singer was still in her teens when she recorded one of the first original Mick Jagger/Keith Richards compositions, “As Tears Go By.” It was a hit and put the duo on the map as songwriters. She later became Jagger’s significant other and introduced him, and the group, to a social circle of young elites which included Guinness heir Tara Browne and art dealer Robert Fraser.
Pallenberg was an intelligent and tough international scenester who rubbed elbows with the likes of Fellini and Warhol Factory denizens before finding herself in the Stones orbit. She quickly became founder Brian Jones girlfriend and wielded significant influence over the band from that point forward. She was highly respected—so much so, that Jagger took her criticisms to heart during the recording of Beggars Banquet and remixed several of the album’s tracks.
Despite their backgrounds, the women were unwavering in their support of each other and together took the Stones from a blues-infused boy band to the critical darlings of British counterculture. They were the right girls, for the right guys at the right time.
But as the 60s came to a close, the spotlight engulfed them. Jones and Pallenberg did not stay together for long after their initial meeting. The guitarist was beset by drug problems and was abusive to Pallenberg. She switched her affections to his bandmate, Keith Richards, on a fateful to trip to Morocco which marked the beginning of the end for Jones in the band, and in life. (He died in 1969.) Anita and Keith were together for 12 years and had three children, but spent much of that time in the throws of addiction and split for good in 1980.
Faithfull saw dark times as well—her four-year affair with Jagger was dogged by scandal and she split from him after miscarrying his child. She, too, embarked on a downward spiral into drug addiction and depression and spent some years homeless before getting clean.
During the following decades, both women were in and out of the public eye. Faithfull jump-started her career with the critically acclaimed album Broken English and made a few films over the years, as did Pallenberg. They reunited in the 2001 BBC comedy series Absolutely Fabulous and played God and the Devil respectively, in a tongue-in-cheek nod to their real-life roles in Stones lore.
With Pallenberg’s passing at age 73, Faithfull has lovingly reflected on their sisterhood via Facebook. “Anita used to say that we (the two of us) are light years ahead of the Rolling Stones. Witty and probably true! I will miss Anita so much; 52 years! I really loved her. We had good times & bad times, but I only remember the good times now. She taught me so much, especially after we got clean; it was very good, and so much fun! Farewell my love, go well.”