Serenading the Little Sparrow

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:02

Tribute to Edith Piaf on the 50th anniversary of her death

Few singers have won so many the hearts as French songstress, Edith Piaf. Known as "The Little Sparrow" because of her diminutive stature and nervous energy, she became a universal symbol of love, loss and sorrow from the 1940s until her death in 1963 at 47. Now, on the 50th anniversary of her passing, the French production company Morgeme, which presents the popular Franofolies music festivals throughout Europe, has put together a tribute to her with some of the most sophisticated and affecting artists performing today. The line up includes Marianne Faithfull, Duffy, Harry Connick, Jr., Madeleine Peyroux, Patricia Kaas and Angelique Kidjo, among others. They join together on September 19 at the Beacon Theatre and at Town Hall on September 20 to sing her songs, like "La Vie en rose," "Non, je ne regrette rien," "Hymne à l'amour," "Milord" and "La Foule," against the backdrop of films of her legendary stage performances.

"We want to seduce New Yorkers into loving Edith Piaf again," says Gerard Post, a producer of the concert. "They love French food, French perfume, French clothes ? they miss so much if they don't also love her and her music." A resilient woman, she had an incredibly tough life. Abandoned by her parents, she spent her earliest years with her maternal grandmother who ran a brothel. She joined her father, a street acrobat, as an entertainer at 14, leaving that behind to devote herself to singing at 17. Discovered by a club owner a few years later, she became an icon to French troops in World War II, and afterwards, took the rest of the world by storm. Fame gave her the freedom to fully indulge herself in music and love affairs. But three car crashes left her with a dependence on alcohol and morphine, which led to her early death.

Kidjo remembers listening to Piaf growing up in Benin, her world music-loving father putting the singer on the highest pedestal. Soon she was practicing singing the songs herself. "I love her because every word comes from her guts," she says. "She puts her whole soul, her whole body into her songs. She never worried about being pretty or nice. She sang that life could be harsh but that it always has possibilities. She said, 'Look at me. My life was hard but see what music gives me, the power to transcend the hardships.' In love and music, she found magic."

Tickets for the concerts September 19 at the Beacon Theatre and September 20 at Town Hall are on sale now via and charge-by-phone at 800-745-3000.