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Edith Piaf

Icons of the Century

Nothing says absinthe, Gauloises and steak frites — that is, nothing says Paris — like Edith Piaf.

Her stage name derives from French argot for “sparrow,” but her physical fragility was in many ways illusory. She was nothing if not a survivor: of a Dickensian childhood, of unhappy romances, of troubled times, of physical torments — until cancer killed her at 47.

The tragedies informed her richly vulnerable, almost raw, singing style. When she sang “La Vie en Rose,” a chanson of her own composition that subsequently became her signature tune, her many fans were, and remain, moved precisely because they, too, saw the world through rose-colored glasses.

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