Piaf legend lives on, 50 years later

Piaf legend lives on, 50 years later
French photographer Hugues Vassal sits in Tours, central France, on multiple photo portraits he took of late popular French singer Edit Piaf.

PARIS - Even as she lay dying, Edith Piaf continued to carefully control her image - one that made her a star and, 50 years after her death, a legend in her native France and around the world.

At 47 and dying of liver cancer, Piaf ruled that only her personal photographer, Hugues Vassal, would be allowed to capture the images of her final days.

Tearing up as he recalled taking his last pictures of the diminutive star, Vassal said that even at the end of her life Piaf insisted - as always - on personally approving each photograph.

"She knew she would go down in history and she wanted control over the photographs that we would keep of her," said the 80-year-old Vassal, who was Piaf's photographer in the last six years of her life.

It was a final act of career choreography from a star whose phenomenal success was based not only on prodigious talent but also on a carefully shaped public image that persists to this day.

When she died on October 10, 1963, Piaf was France's greatest global star and the first to conquer America.

"La Vie en Rose," "Je ne Regrette Rien" - Piaf's tragedy-infused songs and unmistakable voice were the soundtrack for the post-war generation.

She remains one of the best-known French performers abroad. A 2007 film about her life titled "La Vie en Rose" was popular worldwide and earned an Academy Award for actress Marion Cotillard.

But as the landmark anniversary of her death is marked, new material claims that Piaf - or the "Little Sparrow" to her legion of adoring fans - made up or encouraged a number of falsehoods about her life.

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