Charlyn Marie Marshall, born on January 21, 1972 in Atlanta, Georgia, is an American songwriter and musician best known by her stage names Chan Marshall or Cat Power. As an American singer and songwriter, Marshall has battled depression, addiction, and personal struggles to succeed in recording over 9 albums and 2 EPs over the course of her 20 year career.
Cat Power has effectively proven that great art often follows great despair. Her vocals are raw, her lyrics are truthful, her voice haunting, and musical ability profound. With a strong following amongst indie music fans and collaborations with other great musicians, Cat Power has proven her talent with remarkable achievement and soul. Here are the 10 Best Cat Power Songs.
1. Nude As The News
2. Sea of Love
3. Lived In Bars
4. The Greatest
5. Willie Deadwilder
6. You May Know Him
7. Metal Heart
8. The Moon
9. Amazing Grace
10. Good Woman
Born to parents, Charlie, a pianist and blues musician, and mother, Myra Lee, Marshall’s childhood was troubled due to her parents’ divorce. In addition, much of Marshall’s youth was largely unstable. Frequently moving as her father toured the South, Marshall attended ten schools and in locations from Greensboro, North Carolina, Bartlett, Tennessee, to other places in Georgia and South Carolina. Marshall also sometimes temporarily lived with her grandmother, her mother, and eventually on her own. As an adult, Marshall stated in interviews that her youth prepared her for her future life as a musician.
Marshall’s teens were also as difficult as her childhood. As a teen, Marshall’s already troubled relationship with her mother was fractured. By the age of 16, Marshall was completely estranged from her mother and remained out of contact with her until the age of 24 and chose to live with her father in Atlanta. Despite her father’s career as a musician, he discouraged her from becoming a musician and even forbade her from playing his piano. During her teens, Marshall purchased her first musical instrument: a 1950s Silvertone guitar. She left the guitar untouched for a year following its purchase, its presence only “art in the corner.”
Due to her friends, predilection for drinking, and experimental drug use Marshall fell into music after dropping of high school. She also left her father’s home, became pregnant, and worked small jobs at a pizzeria, Initially only backing musicians using the name Cat Power, Marhsall worked with Atlanta area bands and individuals including Glen Thrasher, Marc Moore, Damon Moore, Fletcher Liegerot, Magic Bone, Opal Foxx Quartet, and several others. At the age of twenty, Marshall moved with Glen Thrasher to New York City with Glen Thrasher was introduced to experimental jazz. There she attended a life changing performance played by American composer, philosopher and musician Anthony Braxton and gained the confidence to begin public performances. She later played her first improvisational show at a warehouse in Brooklyn and joined Man or Astro-man? in playing a two string guitar and providing vocals, singing solely the word “No” for over 15 minutes. She also met vocalist Sharon Topper and guitarist Craig Flanagin of God Is My Co-Pilot during this period and released 500 copies of her limited run first single, titled “Headlights” with their label Makings Of Americans.
During 1994, Marshall opened for a Liz Phair show within New York and captured the attention of Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth as well as Tim Folijahn of Two Dollar Guitar. The pair encouraged and assisted with recording Marshall’s first albums, Dir Sir, released in 1995 and Myra Lee, released in 1996. That same year, she signed to Matador Records and recorded her third album, What Would The Community Think. Her song “Nude as the News” was released as the album’s first single and music video and she completed a three month tour as a co-headlining artist with Guv’ner to promote the album.
Two years later, she released Moon Pix, an album recorded in Melbourne, Australia, at the Sing Sing Studios in just eleven days with backup provided by the band The Dirty Three comprised of Mick Turner and Jim White. The album cemented Marshall’s recognition as an indie-rock artist and received praise by critics. More touring followed and during 1999 Marshall offered her skills for the silent film The Passion of Joan Of Arc. Much of the material for the film was produced by Matador records and released on her album The Covers Record having been previously recorded throughout sessions during 1998-1999. Tracks which didn’t make the album were recorded at the home of Britain broadcaster DJ John Peel’s home Peel Acres. The recordings were later featured on Peel’s show BBC Radio 1.
During 2000, Marshall’s live performances combined with her heavy drinking garnered sharp criticism, including the New Yorker’s observation that her “rambling confessions” rendered it “foolhardy to describe a Cat Power event as a concert.” She then began a hiatus to attend to her personal issues and later confessed to HARP magazine during 2006 “I didn’t know I was messed up.” The hiatus lasted three years but her comeback was strong. The 2003 release of You Are Free included original material from industry greats Eddie Vedder, David Grohl, and Warren Ellis. A two year tour throughout Europe, Brazil, the United States, and Australia followed the album’s release and a music video directed by Scott Vapnek for the track “He War” restored Marshall’s musical career. Marshall also released a DVD/cd duo entitled Speaking for Trees featuring an 18 minute song and collaboration with guitarist M. Ward. She also collaborated with the Handsome Boy Modeling School’s White People album and the song “Great Waves” on the Dirty Three’s album Cinder.
During 2005 Marshall began another solo tour, performed for musician Nick Cave’s Australian tour, and appeared at the Meltdown Festival created by Patti Smith. All of the 2005 performances consisted of tracks which would be featured on the 2006 album The Greatest featuring collaborations by the Memphis Rhythm Band including Teenie Hodges, Dave Smith, Steve Potts, Doug Easley, Rick Steff, Scott Thompson, Jim Spake, Susan Marshall, Harlan T. Bobo, and Jonathan Kirkscey. The album secured Marshall’s success as the first woman to ever earn the 2006 Shortlist Music Prize. Additionally, the album was named the 6th best Album of 2006 by Rolling Stone Magazine. As a commercial success, many of the tracks from the album were featured in movies, advertisements, and television. A live performance with the Memphis Rhythm Band for the charity event Music for Youth honoring Bob Dylan marked Marshall’s return to the stage in April 2006. A tour was scheduled to promote The Greatest album yet it was cancelled so that Marshall could tend to her self described “psychotic break.”
After a brief stay at the psychiatric ward at Miami’s Mount Sinai Medical Center for mental exhaustion, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol abuse, Marshall offered an interview to Spin likening the experience as being in “a pit of hell.” Later that year, Marshall created a new band called the Dirty Delta Blues Band featuring Judah Bauer, Gregg Foreman, Erik Paparazzi, and Jim White. The group toured and recorded the album Jukebox during 2007. The album was released during 2008 by Matador Records and featured cover songs. Some of the recordings were left off of the album and later released on an EP titled Dark End Of The Street in December of 2008. Additionally, throughout 2007 and 2008, Marshall contributed vocals in collaboration with Karen Elson, Yoko Ono, the Dexter Romweber Duo, Jesse Harris, Terry Manning, Danger Mouse, Beck, Neko Case, and Eddie Vedder.
In more recent years, Marshall shifted her focus to her personal life and collaboration projects. In 2009, she completed recording and released the album with Dark Was The Night: A Red Hot Compilation which included the gospel song “Amazing Grace.” During 2011, Marshall released What Would the Community Think including the song “King Rides By,” available for purchase at her official website. Proceeds from the sales donated to the Festival of Children Foundation and The Ali Forney Center. During an interview that year, Marshall also stated that she wouldn’t release a new album until 2012 to focus on her personal life and have a family. She also cancelled appearances in Israel and at the Coachella Music Festival. In April, Marshall announced that she would release her upcoming album, entitled Sun, on September 10, 2012.