Paris’ last street singer and Edith Piaf contemporary dies aged 103

Paris' last street singer and Edith Piaf contemporary dies aged 103
Lily Lian, pictured during the 1950s in Paris. Photo: AFP
Paris' last street singer - who once competed with Edith Piaf to draw the crowds - has died, her godson said on Monday.

Lily Lian, a legend of Paris working class life who was immortalised twice in full flow with her loud hailer by the photographer Robert Doisneau, died on Sunday in a hospital near Paris aged 103.

A friend of the crooner Maurice Chevalier and of actor and singer Yves Montand, she was regarded as the last exponent of a 300-year-old trade, where singers sold lyrics and sheet music for their songs on the street.

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Known as “Lily Panam”, after the slang term “Paname” for the French capital, she began her career with Piaf in its cafes and on street corners where singers were the walking jukeboxes of pre-war Paris.

But with the spread of radios and record players, street singers found it hard to compete, and Lian never quite made the transition into the indoor entertainment industry despite her good looks.

Born in 1917 when World War I was at its height, she lost her father, a communist resistance fighter, in 1944. 

But the one-time muse of the songwriter Vincent Scotto had something of renaissance in the 1980s after writing her autobiography, “Lily Panam: Memories of the Last Street Singer.”

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