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8842Re: [RedHotJazz] Josephine Baker

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  • Patrice Champarou
    Sep 25, 2011
      -----Message d'origine-----
      From: Peter L Reid
      Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2011 2:12 PM
      To: Red Hot Jazz
      Subject: [RedHotJazz] Josephine Baker

      > Not a bad CD, and for French music and vocals I prefer her to Edith Piaff.

      Maybe I failed to suspect that this line requested some kind of, er...
      reaction :-)

      Not trying to argue about whatever is a matter of taste, I strongly reject
      the basis of the comparison. The only link between both singers is,
      obviously, national fame, but the comparison can stop here.

      Although she made her first steps on a stage much, much later than
      Joséphine, Edith Piaf belonged to an older, deeply rooted repertoire
      performed by the likes of Fréhel (with such miserabilist songs as Les mômes
      de la cloche), she did inherit the accordion songs performed in the
      guinguettes, and even happened to pay her tribute to rural French folklore
      (La Julie) - all of which are totally absent from whatever Joséphine ever
      sang. Piaf never performed in any other costume than her sempiternal black
      dress, and she never appeared in fashionable revues meant for the Parisian
      bourgeoisie, with feathers or bananas stuck anywhere onto her body. She was
      a "child from the gutter" just as well, but hers was the French gutter, and
      she stuck to it because a) that was her commercial trademark and b) she just
      could no help, even when she happened to talk in Parisian slang to a

      Joséphine Baker's music and lyrics were meant from the start as completely
      "exotic" stuff, unrelated to any French tradition.
      Even her accent permanently denied that she was singing in French, the same
      way as Maurice Chevalier intendedly refused to sound like anything else but
      a French guy performing American songs - when he did. Her songs were
      thoroughly made up for the part she was supposed to play, as the national
      symbol of some imaginary West Indies, Africa, or black America, according to
      the needs and opportunities of the time. "French music", by no means...
      French music is something completely different, not discussed on this list,
      interesting in itself but quite away from any jazz criteria.

      Of course, Edith Piaf also recorded in a nearly-jazz context (Browning, Un
      Monsieur me suit dans la rue...), in which she completely missed the
      instinctive, ambiguous "blue notes" (J'ai dansé avec l'amour) which were
      familiar to most American singers of the time. Technically speaking, she
      could have overcome that, but the national audience rather asked for a
      performer "singing from the heart", as long as she was labeled French.

      Although I am not a true addict, I have to admit that the difference between
      Edith Piaf and most of her contemporaries (Joséphine, and even more
      Mistinguett, included) was that she probably lacked the brightness of a
      formatted professional, but she *could* sing!

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