No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf – Carolyn Burke

21 Apr

Sometimes you just want to hear someone pouring their heart out, whether you understand them or not.  I’ve always loved that gut-wrenching sock to the innards that Piaf is able to dish out.  Without knowing what her words meant, I still felt them.

I first bought a Edith Piaf LP at some record auction with Dad.  There wasn’t much fanfare from him besides “you’re taking French, aren’t you?” but when you are surrounded by vinyl and itching to buy you don’t need much of a nudge.  I listened to it briefly and thought it sounded pretty but I was too young to sit still for long.  I hadn’t had my heart broken yet.  When the time came, I ran to the music store and bought a CD of Edith’s greatest hits.  I always had problem with that album title because it’s like saying Mozart’s greatest hits.  Who cares about a hit parade when you are so moved?  Dick Clark wouldn’t have played Edith and that’s pretty much the whole point.

Anyway, this book.  It was really interesting to learn about Edith.  She grew up the daughter of a circus performer and a street singer.  Her mother would leave and she would tour with her dad, the contortionist.  The book has really great photos of the posters.  Burke then goes on to detail Piaf’s rise to stardom by describing her times in the dance halls.

A bunch of the book is about Piaf’s lovers and how they affected her singing.  Some wrote lyrics, many at her encouragement, and some would do their best to tailor her career to their vision.  The part I found most interesting was her work in WWII.  She visited POW camps and took pictures with the French men there.  She then returned with IDs created with these same pictures and the Germans were none the wiser.

Without going in to too much detail, Edith struggles with the constant need for romantic love and is tormented by a series of  disappointments.  Her health is constantly in jeopardy and she is plagued by hangers-on.  Her life is fascinating but the details only serve to color her songs. And you don’t need to speak French to know that lady sings the blues.

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