Shirley Manson

On this date in 1966, musician-songwriter Shirley Ann Manson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to big band singer Muriel (MacKay) and John Manson, a university lecturer. Manson started her music education in primary school with lessons for piano, recorder, clarinet and violin. She took part in amateur dramatic and musical performances in secondary (high) school.

Bullied and suffering from depression as a teen, she rebelled and started skipping school. She worked for several years in the retail sector and as a waitress while singing with local groups. Manson sang backing vocals and played keyboards for the band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and then recorded albums with the group’s side project performing as Angelfish. 

Drummer and co-producer Butch Vig of the alternative rock band Garbage was impressed with her musical abilities and stage presence and invited her to join the band. The 1995 debut album “Garbage” sold 4 million copies and was followed by five studio albums, with Manson assuming most of the songwriting duties. The first four albums were recorded at Smart Studios in Madison, Wis. (also FFRF’s home turf). Garbage toured worldwide and sold 12 million records over 10 years.

In 2009 she announced she was stepping away from music but the hiatus was brief. She performed with The Pretenders, Iggy Pop, Incubus and Kings of Leon, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. Manson and Garbage reunited to record the albums “Not Your Kind of People” and “Strange Little Birds” in 2012 and 2016. A 2019 Irish Times story (“Garbage in Dublin: Manson emerges on stage, an absolute badass”) reviewed her contralto voice as “note-perfect” 24 years after joining Garbage.

In July 2019 she was announced as the host of the new seven-episode podcast “The Jump” featuring conversations with musicians about “the moments in an artist’s career where they decide to take a leap into something new, and after that, nothing is the same.”

Manson was married to Scottish artist Eddie Farrell from 1996 to 2003. She married record producer and Garbage sound engineer Billy Bush in Los Angeles in 2010. She has been actively involved in several charitable endeavors, including raising money for HIV-AIDS and children’s cancer research, Haiti hurricane relief efforts and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 

She told Rolling Stone magazine in 1998 that she’s an atheist: “The perverse thing about my spiritual growth as a child was that my father was my Sunday school teacher. We grew up very much under Scottish Presbyterian schooling. I went to church every Sunday and when I was about 12, I had a huge fight with my father over the dinner table. I’m screaming at him that religion’s a sham, it’s crazy and I’m not going to church anymore, it’s just bullshit.” 

Photo: Manson in 2010 at PETA’s 30th anniversary gala at the Hollywood Palladium. Image via Shutterstock by Kathy Hutchins.

Freedom From Religion Foundation