For the centenary year of the birth of Edith Piaf (1915–1963), the French cabaret singer, it was only right that the Tiger Lillies paid her a visit. And so Martyn Jaques opened up the songbook of France’s “little sparrow” to see what he might find with a view to marking Piaf’s somewhat less-than-happy life and career in a new album and stage show. It was rich material and the resulting production Madame Piaf has now appeared to much acclaim at a number of venues around Europe.
The album and show include a mixture of original new songs written by Martyn, together with half a dozen cover versions of Piaf’s own songs, sung in English and including her most well-known tracks, “La Vie en Rose”, Padam, and of course, “No Regrets (Non, Je ne Regrette Rien)”. The Tiger Lillies tell the story of Edith Piaf’s everyday life in the bohemian byways of the French capital after the Second World War. Madame Piaf is a sincere and pitiless tribute to the celebrated chanteuse, for whom Martyn Jacques says: “I’ve met girls like Edith Piaf. They’re usually described as having borderline personality disorder. They’re alcoholics, drug addicts and often prostitutes. Funny that she is today a symbol of French national pride, an icon. It’s interesting that when asked about her mother, also a singer (and “part-time” prostitute), Piaf said she could have made it but was simply unlucky. So I suppose that makes Piaf a lucky alcoholic drug and man addict. But who cares — France didn’t, nor do I. She was great, electric. She came from the gutter but is one of the best singers ever.”