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L'Accordéoniste (originally: La Fille de joie est triste ) is a chanson by the French singer Édith Piaf . Text and music are by Michel Emer . The song is about a prostitute who loves an accordionist who is called up to war and does not return. It was performed for the first time on February 16, 1940 in the Bobino and recorded on record on April 5 of the same year. Since then it has been one of the most famous chansons by Édith Piaf.


Accordion player

A joy girl stands on a street corner and is well paid by the men. After her job is done, she goes to the suburbs dance halls. Her husband is a musician who plays the Java on his accordion . But she doesn't dance, just follows the play of his fingers and feels the music so intensely that she wants to sing. After her husband was drafted into the war, she stands sad on the street corner. She dreams of a future together and hums the Java. As she imagines her husband playing the accordion, she feels the music so intensely that she wants to cry. She is still standing alone on the corner and is so desperate that customers pass her by. She knows that her husband won't come back from the war. Your life and all your dreams are shattered. Tired, she is drawn to a dance hall where another accordionist is playing the Java. She begins to dance to forget and feels the music so intensely that she wants to scream. Finally there is a cry that the music should stop.


L'Accordéoniste was recorded live with an orchestra of seven to eight people. In addition to the female lead singer, an accordion, piano, guitar, drums and two to three violins can be heard. Lars Nyre describes Piaf's lecture as "emotionally charged, engaging and intense". Her voice with her intimate timbre and her singing style are both deeply felt and honest in conveying a story of war and suffering. There is a strong dynamic contrast between the quiet, gentle beginning and the crescendo at the end of the song. With the exclamation “ARRÊTEZ! Arrêtez la musique! ”The orchestra stops playing abruptly, and Édith Piaf sings the last words a cappella .


For David Looseley, L'Accordéoniste is a three- act drama in which each stanza shows a different stage in the life of a prostitute. In the first act, the protagonist is beautiful, her business is good, and she seeks pleasure in the presence of her beloved accordion player, who, through his playing, gives her aesthetic and sexual arousal. In the second act she compensates for the war-related separation from her lover with dreams of a happy future together. In the third act, she realizes that the accordionist will not return and the road remains her fate. A masochistic form of suffering drives them back into the dance halls, where another accordionist's playing reinforces the feeling of loss. Although it is a story in the third person, Édith Piaf slips into the role of the prostitute on stage, underscoring the sexual dimension of the first verse with gestures and the tumult of the dance in the last verse until the music has become unbearable through silences an abrupt gesture and hides her face. She pauses for a few seconds, as if in agony , before uttering the last pathetic plea that the music be silent.

Adrian Rifkin interprets the accordion in the chanson as a metaphor for popular sexuality, both painful and fleeting. The long, nimble fingers of an accordionist beguile a tired prostitute, but it is stolen from her by the war, as is her dreams of a better life. All she has left is the music, played by another musician, and she dances with empty arms. The Java, the fast, rural waltz, for Rifkin also a synonym for the life of ordinary people, with its endless repetitions is built up from the tensions of closeness and loss. His silence also ends the imagined sociability and the ecstasy evoked by the music ends in silence.

Lars Nyre interprets L'Accordéoniste above all against its historical background. During the Second World War , just before the German occupation of France , there was a tense nervousness in the French population, in which people tried to distract themselves through music. In this environment, the chanson makes a subtle political statement. Although the prostitute sung about has superficially nothing to do with Piaf's life, the audience identifies the singer with the Parisian nightlife. She knows the tough life in the big city from her own experience and feels the threat of war at the same time. Through her emotional presentation, she revives the "tearful and in a certain way clichéd story", and the fate of the woman in the song is linked to the personality of Édith Piafs.


Édith Piaf (1951)

On the evening before he was to be drafted into the French army, Michel Emer visited Édith Piaf in February 1940 to introduce her to a chanson written for her. Piaf already knew the composer from his works for Lucienne Boyer and Maurice Chevalier , which, however, were too sentimental for her. However , she was immediately so enthusiastic about L'Accordéoniste that she wanted to include the song in her next stage show.

On February 16, 1940, Piaf performed the chanson for the first time in Paris' Bobino . Emer, who postponed his entry to attend the premiere of his song, spoke in retrospect of an "insane response". Piaf asked the composer on stage and introduced him as a soldier who was on his way to the front, whereupon the audience applauded again. The song was reminiscent of the style of the chansons that Piaf's previous composer Raymond Asso had written for them, but it became a turning point for Piaf in terms of stage presence. While she had kept her hands steady in her previous performances, she underlined L'Accordéoniste for the first time with economical but effective gestures that expressed her obsession and devotion to music. This physical presence of the singer on stage increased her popularity among broad sections of the population. The abrupt interruption of the song by means of the appeal “Arrêtez!” Goes back to an idea of ​​Piaf and, according to Jean-Dominique Brierre, is “a stroke of genius”.

Was recorded for the first time L'Accordéoniste , then still under the title La Fille de joie est triste was accompanied on April 5, 1940. Piaf by the Belgian musette -Akkordeonisten Gus Viseur . According to Michael Dregni, this performance made Viseur the accordionist in the hearts of all French people . The chanson marked the beginning of a friendship and long-term collaboration between Piaf and Emer, who wrote numerous other chansons for the singer. During the German occupation of France , however, Emer had to hide because of his Jewish origins, and the song, as a work by a Jewish composer, was no longer allowed to be played on the radio. Nevertheless, Piaf performed repeatedly with the chanson, for example in February 1943, when a performance in the Casino de Paris with dancers wearing oversized accordions aroused the displeasure of the German occupiers and caused the singer to be banned from appearing for two months. L'Accordéoniste remained an integral part of Piaf's repertoire and one of her favorite songs even after the Liberation .

Artists who have recorded cover versions of L'Accordéoniste include Claude Nougaro ( Nougaro sur scène , 1985), Sapho ( Sapho Live au Bataclan , 1987), Ute Lemper ( Illusions , 1992), Mireille Mathieu ( Mireille Mathieu chante Piaf and Under the sky of Paris , both 1993), Marcel Azzola ( L'Accordéoniste , 1994), Ina Deter ( Voilà - songs by Edith Piaf in German , 2003) and In-Grid ( La vie en rose , 2004).

Individual evidence

  1. Lars Nyre: Sound Media: From Live Journalism to Music Recording . Routledge, New York 2008, ISBN 978-0-415-39114-6 , p. 155.
  2. a b Carolyn Burke: No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf . Chicago Review Press, Chicago 2012, ISBN 978-1-61374-392-8 , p. 71.
  3. ^ David Looseley: Édith Piaf: A Cultural History . Liverpool University Press, Liverpool 2015, ISBN 978-1-78138-859-4 , no page number.
  4. ^ Adrian Rifkin: Street Noises: Parisian Pleasure, 1900-40 . Manchester University Press, Manchester 1995, ISBN 0-7190-4589-4 , pp. 174-175.
  5. Lars Nyre: Sound Media: From Live Journalism to Music Recording . Routledge, New York 2008, ISBN 978-0-415-39114-6 , pp. 154-155.
  6. Carolyn Burke: No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf . Chicago Review Press, Chicago 2012, ISBN 978-1-61374-392-8 , p. 72.
  7. a b c Jean-Dominique Brierre: Sans amour, on n'est rien du tout . Hors, Paris 2013, ISBN 978-2-258-10147-0 , p. 15.
  8. Michael Dregni: Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008, ISBN 978-0-19-531192-1 , p. 157.
  9. Carolyn Burke: No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf . Chicago Review Press, Chicago 2012, ISBN 978-1-61374-392-8 , pp. 72, 76, 88, 120, 132, 149.