Saturday is Edith Piafs centenary and its fitting to recollect a singer who helped shape French national identity in the 20 th century
A% 0dith Piaf was born 100 years ago on Saturday, around the same period Einstein made a breakthrough with his theory of general relativity. She arrived at the Hospital Tenon in the 20 th arrondissement of Paris on 19 December, though according to her own version of episodes, she was delivered on the front stairs of her home at 72 Rue de Belleville after a horse-drawn ambulance failed to show. If this was extravagant, then Frances most famous chanteuse didnt have to embellish the details of the rest of their own lives, such was the dramatic scope. From growing up in a bordello, to wasting four years blinded by keratitis in her infancy, to joining her acrobat parent on the road leading in her teenages, to shooting up morphine, cortisone and falling into alcoholism to facilitate a dodgy back kept in a vehicle clang as an adult( precipitating what she described as her years of hell ), it certainly wasnt without event.
While celebrations for Piafs centenary have been low key this December, France and the Belleville neighbourhood of Paris in particular honoured her storage following the 50 th commemoration of her demise in October 2013. If Piaf is a little out of style with todays jeunesse dorA( c) e then you suspect that could all change at any moment with, tell, a high-profile cover version or a brand-new motion picture. To rephrase an old footballing cliche, fashion is temporary, class is permanent. Her brand of torch lyrics and cabaret showtunes might seem antediluvian to some, but a tone with such supremacy to convey excitement never dates. Whats more, she led a life so bohemian and wild that she makes the Jim Morrison implanted, like her, on PA” re Lachaise cemetery look like a calculable conformist who got a bit carried away on his breach time. Avert your ears and Piafs life was a punk opu decades before the category exploded.
Born A% 0dith Giovanna Gassion, she was nicknamed La MA’me Piaf ( entailing the little sparrow) by her first administrator, Louis Leplee. Leplee was murdered by the mob in 1936, and Piaf was under police surveillance as a suspect for a duration, but subsequently cleared. He discovered her singing for her dinner on wall street of Montmartre, and she often sang in a Bellevilloise argot apparently not dissimilar to a Parisian version of old cockney. La MA’me maintained singing about the street where molted come from all their own lives( Mon coeur est au silver dune rue and Elle frequentait la rue Pigalle are merely two examples ), and as a parvenu living in style formerly shed make the big time, she blew all her coin on a farm, as well as raining her hangers-on in gifts.
I told myself that I wanted to breed kine, she wrote in her memoir. It was all the rage all the artistes were going into multiplying. But in four years I picked two kilos of dark-green beans, a pound of strawberries and some tomatoes. I engendered two chickens, a rabbit, and all the felines in the neighborhood. It cost me one and a half million francs for the center heating so I sold it for next to good-for-nothing and later on, when I was ill, I had no fund left to pay for my hospital greenback. Paif likewise sold invaluable paintings and her jewellery accumulation, and unsurprisingly she left her second spouse with a mountain of debt when she passed on.
She took numerous devotees, including nature heavyweight boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, with whom she had a very public relationship with despite him having a wife and children. The Moroccan Bomber discounted his aversion to winging in a bid to astound her in New York before a show in 1949. His Air France Lockheed Constellation jet crashed into Monte Redondo in the Azores, killing all 48 beings on board. Piaf took to the stage that night after hearing the word and collapsed twice mid-chanson, and had to be helped off stage. She ever maintained that Cerdan was her one true love.
As for America, Piaf played Carnegie Hall twice in 1956 and 1957, and she cracked the worlds biggest market more than a decade before the Beatles( lastly, in 1998, she was given a Grammy hall of fame honor ), some achievement for a European who chiefly sang in French. She popularised the French usage overseas with entitlements like Je ne regrette rien and La vie en rose overtaking into English as phrases. Shes forced everyone from Marianne Faithfull to Anna Calvi, and Elton John when he was good( 1976 s Cage the Songbird charts the hours before Piaf apparently killed himself; clearly none had told lyricist Bernie Taupin that she died of liver cancer ). She passed away hours before her friend Jean Cocteau, whose last word were: Ah, la Piaf est morte. Je peux mourir aussi .( Ah, Piaf, is dead, I can die likewise .)
After her fatality, Piaf received the highest award from the French authority when the tricolor flag was covered over her coffin. It was no empty gesticulate. During the second world war, she toured the unoccupied zone of Vichy France and apparently facilitated free as many as 300 POWs at the Stalag III-D camp near Berlin, by talking the clique captain into allowing her to be photographed with all the inpatients the photos then used to create inaccurate papers for them, ascribing them as free French employees in Germany.
In the years since Piafs death its been cliche alluding to musicians as intrepid for all sorts of reasons: secreting an peculiar book, pronouncing sudden situations in interviews, touring plazas that are rarely inspected, playing gigs while not feeling very well. On the eve of her centenary, its worth remembering a musician that actually was brave.