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Wednesday, October 12, 2011


     andy warhol marilyn

Paid no attention to the news today. Saw the film of Edith Piaf's life, LA VIE EN ROSE. I've wanted to see this for a few years, but not in such a hurry that I ran it to the top of the netflix Q. Something like this, when I wait a long time to see it, I appreciate all the more at the time seeing it. If I'd seen it earlier, I'd not be seeing it now. All the way through the film, I thought of Kelly Carpenter, daughter of my friend Dudley Carpenter. Kelly is in NY now with some serious singing gigs. She's done a show of Patsy Cline, singing the songs as Patsy Cline. She did the same with Janis Joplin. I'm supposing she's on her way to Broadway shows. The French actress who played Edith Piaf favored Kelly so much it could have been confusing had I not known it was not Kelly. I believe Kelly could have carried the role. I don't know that she has a lot of experience acting. For the actress in the film, it was a tour de force of experienced acting. Whatever the case, I thought of Kelly throughout the film.

Piaf was the story of another junkie musician who used heroin to reach that place where magic from within enters the music. It apparently pushes every inhibition out of the way, opening the channel to let the soul flow freely through whatever the musical form. Musicians use liquor for a lesser version of the same thing. Herion helped Edith Piaf, Charlie Parker, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Art Pepper reach the place where the music flows from the soul, without interference all the way through the hall of mirrors of inhibitions to the projection of the sound. Mind altering substances and music have gone hand in hand all the way along. They keep mind out of the way. The best way to make music is not to think about it. I tend not to like stories of somebody who falls through the bottom, like Janis Joplin. The movie, Rose, with Bette Midler, I felt no sympathy, empathy, only glad it was over. It was not like that with Edith Piaf. I felt deeply with her. At the same time, I saw her life as a shooting star, glamorous and on top of the world for a short time. Then there's hell to pay all the way down to the bottom and through it. Like Sid Vicious, a dumb shit who was famous for being a dumb shit.

Edith Piaf's was a gripping story because I cared about her. Somebody like Sid Vicious's story in SID AND NANCY is the story of somebody too dumb to live. I'll never forget a photograph of an apparent tattoo on somebody's forehead that said, TOO FAST TO LIVE, TOO YOUNG TO DIE. Sid Vicious evidently was not too young to die. He'll forever be a famous rock personality. He couldn't play a bass. Somebody else played the bass for the Sex Pistols in the studio. Sid played on stage because he was such a show, cutting himself up with broken glass, spitting at the audience that is spitting at him, acting like the dumb shit he was, a rock star who made a perfectly dreadful version of Frank Sinatra's My Way, that is the definitive punk recording of the song several other punkers have made, including Nina Hagen, who made it her own. Jim Morrison was another junkie who fell through the bottom. I never liked the music of the Doors in that time. There was so much that was better. Though Oliver Stone's film of the Doors was quite a good film. Don't care to see it again, because Jim Morrison bores me in his self-pitying teenage angst straight-jacket, but it was a good film. Like W gave us 8 years of a right wing putsch, or surge, and Oliver Stone gave us a great film, letting W tell his own story. 

Seeing Edith Piaf on the downside of the artificial heroin high was painful. It took her to the height she couldn't reach without it, but what a price when it doesn't work any more. It must have something to do with the issue of selling one's soul to the devil, like Robert Johnson claimed to have done, to get that magic in music available in no other way apparently. That leads to the Bible and putting your faith in the temporary, like youth, fame, position. It was especially valuable in her story to see her childhood, which could make a junkie. She had it the way nobody wants it in their childhood, or any time in their life. Piaf is French for sparrow. She was given that name by a club manager who recognized her songbird quality and her birdlike lightness, even frailty. He didn't like her name she was born with. At the beginning of her stage performances, she was given her name that by now the whole world knows her by.

It's Edith Piaf's soulful singing that makes her wonderful. Her life is just the adventures of the body that carries this voice. Someone in New York said to her after a show that her voice was the soul of Paris. That threw me to Ralph Stanley's voice being the soul of these mountains. I understood the meaning of Edith Piaf's voice being the soul of Paris. I don't have a feel for Paris or anything Parisian, but I do have a feel for Ralph Stanley and the Blue Ridge mountains. I understand what that means. It gives me a sense for Parisian culture to hear her singing. Not a great deal, but something like a scent. About as much perspective as seeing a passenger jet fly over and considering that's about as high as a Himalayan mountain. The life of Edith Piaf was the story of a beautiful soul in improbable circumstances.


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