France marked the centenary of Edith Piaf's birth Saturday with added poignancy barely a month after the Paris attacks targeting the very joie-de-vivre that she embodied.
“You have to keep going,” says Malene Lamarque, a chanteuse who belts out Piaf favourites every Tuesday at Le Vieux Belleville, a cabaret bistrot frequented by locals and tourists alike.
Hers has been a constant refrain, echoed everywhere in the hashtag #tousaubistrot ("everyone to the bistrots"), since 130 people were killed while enjoying a night out at Parisian bars and restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall, where Piaf herself performed.
The chansons of the diminutive singer with a huge voice had a “social function, they gave pleasure, joy and togetherness, but they also consoled,” said Lamarque, aged around 60.
Tributes to the “Little Sparrow” kicking off at the weekend are to continue into the New Year at venues humble and grand, reflecting Piaf’s rise from singing street urchin to world-class chanteuse.
“She went through all the stages, from poverty to stardom,” Lamarque said.
The new Philharmonie de Paris is staging a one-woman show by French pop singer Camelia Jordana, while the Belleville’s St Jean le Baptiste, the neo-Gothic church where Piaf was baptised, is holding a special mass and concert in her honour.
But numbers are way down from two years ago, when France honoured the 50th anniversary of Piaf’s death at age 47 after her exuberant but tumultuous life.
Joseph Pantalou, owner of Le Vieux Belleville, said the Paris attacks "weigh hugely" on his family business, which depends on tourists -- from countries including Britain, the United States, Russia, Spain, Portugal for 80 percent of its income.