Thursday, October 10, 2013


Some of my Piaf vinyls - Je sais comment is the flip side of Milord.

Today sees another anniversary, this time in that other country whose culture has had an enormous influence on my life - la belle France. Fifty years ago, on this night, "la Môme Piaf" [the "little sparrow"] died, leaving behind a whole catalogue of songs which were, for the most part, sad love stories and a tale of a tragic, yet triumphant, life.  

Édith Piaf's life story is well known so I won't repeat it here but I will say that by the time she met her last love, Théo Sarapo, I was old enough to rejoice for her, as did millions of Frenchwomen.

It wasn't until she stood up and told the world, "Je ne regrette rien" that she became widely known in the UK and, as a teenager studying French, I adored the song. However, it is not my favourite Piaf song, although it comes close, along with La Vie en Rose which she wrote with Marguerite Monnot. The Piaf song I like best is this one, in which the older woman tells the disillusioned young man [Théo] that love is sad, painful but wonderful:

Édith Piaf et Théo Sarapo - A quoi ça sert l'amour?

I like to think that Édith is with Théo now and with Marcel Cerdan too, for I'm sure that God forgives love.

And my second favourite? In troubled times, such as I am experiencing at the moment, I find comfort in this song:

Édith Piaf - Je sais comment

Some years ago, in Paris, I decided to look for Piaf's tomb in Père-Lachaise. I happened to enter by a side gate where there were no maps on sale and I remember wandering around cursing and lamenting the fact that people unhelpfully refuse to die in alphabetical order. Eventually I found the tomb and, thirty years late, laid my rose upon it.

I have just reread the chapter on Piaf in the book A Star is Torn by Robyn Archer and Diane Simmonds. This book, published in 1986 and based on a successful stage show of the same name, examines the lives of women singer-superstars whose personal situations were unhappy. Of Piaf the authors write,

"Édith Piaf epitomises that enduring strand in western popular culture of women who dedicated their lives and work to men, and sang songs about how right that was. The implications for women have been enormous."

I agree but Édith Piaf is no less great for that.


Whispering Walls said...

RIP Edith: ne regrette rien!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Echoed, WW.

Lee said...

Piaf certainly was of a kind and memories of her will never fade. When I was a teenager we one or more nights during the week we got together at someone's home...not parties as such more in the vein of small informal gatherings; sitting around talking, listening to music...and Piaf was often on the turntable.

Robyn Archer is a highly-acclaimed Australian singer; writer; director - someone who has spent her life involved in the arts internationally and here in her home country. She was born, raised and educated in Adelaide, South Australia.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks for the info, Lee.


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