paris street scene

No Regrets:
The Life of Edith Piaf

Carolyn Burke

No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke

By by Brad Hooper, Booklist (American Library Association)
February 1, 2011

Introduced here as "one of the greatest vocalists of the twentieth century," iconic French singer Edith Piaf is accorded a perceptive, supportive, even definitive biography by seasoned biographer Burke (Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy, 1996; Lee Miller: A Life, 2005), who had access to previously untapped Piaf documents. For the singer's fans, it's a generally well-known fact that Piaf grew up, and grew up singing, on the streets of the shady side of Paris. With a natural, raw technique (which, as she gained both fame and new friends with experience in this regard, underwent definite degrees of refinement) and an equally natural, ingrained empathy with the habits and plights of ordinary working-class folks, Piaf gradually moved her act off the streets and into bigger and more noticed performance venues, a chronicle of events documented here with an emphasis on separating truth from legend. Piaf certainly made some unfortunate love and lifestyle choices, but Burke refuses to see her as self-destructive. Piaf was a fighter and a learner, two qualities that make for a compelling life story.