Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Watching this year's World Series, I noticed eBay was one of the regular sponsors.

At least once during each game they ran a commercial with some really beautiful French singing going on while a woman searches for a lost ring.

Though I can make no connection between the scene acted out and the accompanying song, I love the music. What is the title of this enchanting song, and who is the lady doing the marvelous singing.

Was this ever a hit record, and did she have others?

Can the eBay song be found on CD?
—Ann Gill, Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR ANN: The engaging tune chosen for that eBay spot is “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and the singer is none other than Edith Piaf.

Regarded as France's most beloved entertainer ever, Piaf (December 19, 1915 - October 11, 1963) recorded “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” in 1960, and it quickly reached No. 1 in most of Europe.

At that same time, the French-Algerian War was intense, and, as a moral booster for the French Foreign Legion, Edith dedicated “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” to her country's troops.

This bona fide classic is still in use by the Legion for inspiration during some of their field exercises.

As with many of her hits, Piaf recorded an English language version of “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (literally: “No, I Regret Nothing”). The English title is simply “No Regrets.”

Edith's 30-year body of recorded works is huge, but here are a few others also revered as classics:

“La Vie en Rose”: Written by Edith in 1945 during the German occupation of France, this Grammy Award winner evolved into her signature song. In 1950, an alternative take in English became Piaf's first American hit single. Dean Martin revived “La Vie en Rose” on his 1962 album, “French Style.”

“Les Trois Cloches: This 1945 track, recorded with Les Compagnons de la Chanson, landed on the U.S. charts three times as “The Three Bells.” First in 1952 by Les Compagnons de la Chanson without Edith, then in 1959 by the Browns — a No. 1 hit in the U.S. — and a '59 cover by Dick Flood.

“Milord”: A staple of Piaf concerts, this Judy Garlandesque show-stopper topped charts throughout Europe in 1959, and even worked its way onto the American scene. In the summer of '64, smack dab in the midst of the British Invasion, Bobby Darin's Milord,” a faithful tribute to Edith, made the U.S. Top 50.

“Hymne `a l'amour”: Another Piaf composition that topped European charts in 1950, but wouldn't be known to Americans until 1954 when Kay Starr took it to the Top 5, bearing the title “If You Love Me (Really Love Me).”

The results to the ad must be pleasing eBay. It is, as of this writing, still running regularly.

Want more? A least a dozen Edith Piaf compilation CDs exist and are easily available from numerous online and brick and mortar sources. Books, DVDs, and web sites detailing Edith's remarkable life and legacy are also plentiful.

Having invested this much space to a topic inspired by a TV commercial topic, we might as well stick with that theme:

DEAR JERRY: Rock star John Cougar Mellencamp now stars in a nostalgia-themed TV ad for GM trucks, and part of it baffles me.

For a split-second, a 78 rpm Decca record is shown spinning on a turntable, but there is no audio of it. Now my curiosity about this disc is driving me nuts.

I even tried to record that portion to tape and slowed it down to individual frames, but still can't read the label.

Do you have a way to research this for me?
—Cliff Hayman, Portland, Ore.

DEAR CLIFF: Only by using the same approach as you, but with TIVO rather than tape.

While the digital image is slightly better than analog, I can read the title but not the artist.

It is definitely “How High the Moon,” and could be by either Ella Fitzgerald (Decca 24387) or Lionel Hampton (Decca 24513).

Neither of these made the charts, as the hit that year of “How High the Moon” is by Stan Kenton (Capitol 15117).

Of course this song now belongs to Les Paul & Mary Ford, whose 1951 version sailed right to No. 1.

IZ ZAT SO? Only twice in the past 100 years has Paris traffic been shut down because hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the streets.

It first occurred in 1945 as the French joyfully celebrated the end of World War II.

Then again in mid-October 1963, with the mood that day being sorrow instead of delight, as an uncountable multitude said adieu to their dearly loved Môme Piaf (Little Sparrow).

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