paris street scene

No Regrets:
The Life of Edith Piaf

Carolyn Burke

No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke

By Publishers Weekly (starstarred review)
December 2010

Following her biographies of photographer Lee Miller and poet Mina Loy, Burke offers this eloquent embrace of the famed French singer-songwriter, Edith Piaf. As a child, Piaf (1915–1963) grew up in a Normandy brothel run by her grandmother, then led a vagabond life, touring as a singer with her father's acrobatic performances. A Paris street singer in her teens, she gave birth in 1933 to a daughter who lived only two years. When she brought her "velvety vibrato" and interpretations of la chanson réaliste, the tradition of gritty, slice-of-life song-stories about the downtrodden, into an elegant club in 1935, "it was as if a guttersnipe had invaded the inner sanctum where sophisticates . . . sat drinking champagne," yet the audience was "electrified by her voice." An overnight sensation on radio a few days later, Piaf followed with recordings, films, and concerts. Tracing her rise to international fame, Burke details her tragedies and her triumphs, her marriages and her music, and her conquest of America from Carnegie Hall to the Ed Sullivan Show. As Burke links the singer's lyrics and life in this evocative portrait, raw emotions emerge, etched with Piaf's "poignant mix of vulnerability and defiance."