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Edith Piaf


Edith Piaf still looms large as France's biggest singer. She was known as "the waif sparrow" -- an apt description for someone who projected a seemingly contradictory air of fragile toughness. Like Billie Holiday, she overcame grim, Dickensian beginnings, only to wallow in dark torch songs that somehow projected strength instead of self-pity. Besides romance, she sang about sex, death and drug addiction in a straightforward fashion that still seems shocking even in these desensitized times. Her taboo subject matter ensured that many of her songs would be banned from the radio, but even that failed to tarnish her star through out the 1930s, '40s and '50s. She cultivated songwriters and helped jump-start the careers of such fellow wounded icons as Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour.
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