- Category : Singer - Entertainer
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (42,49,55,57)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Eden 4
- Birth Year: 1915
- Birthday: 19. December
- Birthplace: Paris, France
- Category: Singer - Entertainer
- Profile: 4-6
- Type: Emotional Manifesting Generator
- Inc.Cross: Eden 4
- Definition: Double Split - Small (42,49,55,57)
- Variables: BRR-MRR
- 1333 The Prodigal
- 0731 The Alpha
- 1222 Openness
- 2946 Discovery
- 3254 Transformation
Édith Piaf (December 19, 1915–October 11, 1963) was one of France's most loved singers, who became a national icon. Her music reflected her tragic life, with her specialty being the poignant ballad performed in a heartbreaking voice. Among her most famous songs are "La vie en rose" (1946), "Hymne à l'amour" (1949), "Milord" (1959), "Non, je ne regrette rien" (1960).
Despite numerous published biographies, many facts and events of Édith's life are shrouded in mystery. She was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris, the high-immigration district later described by Daniel Pennac. Legend has it that she was born on the pavement of Rue de Belleville 72, but her birth certificate states she was born at Hôpital Tenon, the hospital for the 20th arrondissement of which Belleville is part. She was named Édith after the World War I British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping French soldiers escape from German captivity. Piaf—a Parisian colloquialism for "sparrow"—originated as a nickname she would receive twenty years later.
Her mother, Annetta Giovanna Maillard (1895–1945), was a part-Italian native of Livorno, a port city on the western edge of Tuscany, Italy. She was working as a café singer under the name Line Marsa. Louis-Alphonse Gassion (1881–1944), Edith's father, was a street acrobat with a past in the theatre. Little Édith was soon abandoned by her parents, left for a short time with her maternal grandmother, Emma (Aïcha) Saïd ben Mohammed (1876–1930), (a Kabyle). Shortly thereafter, Édith's father took the child to his mother, who ran a brothel in Normandy, and he then joined the French Army (1916). Thus, Édith was in contact with the prostitutes and the various attendees of the brothel since her early years, a circumstance which must have had a deep impact on her personality and view of life.
From the age of three to seven Édith was allegedly blind and she suffered from conjunctivitis; and from eight to fourteen she was allegedly deaf. According to one of Piaf's biographies, she recovered her sight in what is known as a "miracle", after her grandmother's prostitutes pooled money to send her on a pilgrimage honoring Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. In 1929, at fourteen, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances. She then took a room at Grand Hôtel de Clermont (18 rue Veron, Paris 18ème) and separated from him, going her own way as a street singer in Pigalle, Ménilmontant, and the Paris suburbs (cf. the song "Elle fréquentait la Rue Pigalle"). She was about sixteen years old when she fell in love with a delivery boy, Louis Dupont. Shortly afterward she had a child, a little girl named Marcelle, who died in infancy of meningitis.
In 1935, Édith was discovered by the nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. He persuaded her to sing despite her extreme nervousness, which, combined with her petite height of only 4 feet 8 inches (147 cm), inspired him to give her the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life and serve as her stage name, La Môme Piaf (The Sparrow Kid). Her first record was produced in the same year. Shortly afterward, Leplée was murdered and Piaf was accused of being an accessory, but she was acquitted.
In 1940, Jean Cocteau wrote the successful play Le Bel Indifférent, intended for Édith as the star. She began to make friends with famous people, such as the actor Maurice Chevalier and the poet Jacques Borgeat. She wrote the lyrics of many of her songs and collaborated with composers on the tunes. In 1944, Édith Piaf discovered Yves Montand in Paris, made him part of her act, and became his mentor and lover.
During this time, she was in great demand and very successful. Singing for high-ranking Germans at the One Two Two Club earned Piaf the right to pose for photographs with French prisoners of war, ostensibly as a morale-boosting exercise. She gave the photos to underground workers who made counterfeit passports for all 150 captives. After returning to the camp again, Piaf secretly transferred the passports to the Frenchmen, and some of them managed to escape. Today, Piaf's association with the French Resistance is well known, and many former Resistance members owe their lives to her.
After the war, she toured Europe, the United States, and South America, becoming an internationally known figure. Her popularity in the United States was such that she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show eight times and at Carnegie Hall twice (1956 and 1957). She helped to launch the career of Charles Aznavour, taking him on tour with her in France and the United States.
Her signature song "La vie en rose" (which was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998) was written in 1945.
The great love of Piaf's life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a 1949 plane crash. Piaf was married twice. Her first husband was Jacques Pills, a singer. They married in 1952 and divorced in 1956. Her second husband, Théo Sarapo, was a twenty-six-year-old hairdresser-turned-singer and actor, twenty years younger than Piaf. They married in 1962. By all accounts he was very taken with Piaf and doted on her till the end.
In 1951 she was involved in a car accident, and thereafter had difficulty breaking a serious morphine addiction.
The famed Paris Olympia concert hall is where Piaf achieved lasting fame, giving several series of concerts at the hall between January 1955 and October 1962. Excerpts from five of these concerts (1955, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962) were issued on record and CD and have never been out of print. In April 1963, Piaf recorded her last song, "L'homme de Berlin".
Death and legacy
The grave of Édith Piaf, Père Lachaise Cemetery, ParisAt the early age of forty-seven, Piaf died of cancer at Plascassier, on the French Riviera, on October 11, 1963, the same day as her friend Jean Cocteau died. She was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris. Although she was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris (because of her lifestyle), her funeral procession drew hundreds of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than forty thousand fans. Charles Aznavour recalled that Piaf's funeral procession was the only time since the end of World War II that he saw Parisian traffic come to a complete stop.
There is a museum dedicated to Piaf, the Musée Édith Piaf at 5, rue Crespin du Gast, 75011, Paris.
Today she is still remembered and revered as one of the greatest singers France has ever produced.
A film of Piaf's life by Olivier Dahan, La Vie en Rose, debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February, 2007. Titled La Môme in France, the film stars Marion Cotillard as Piaf. Dahan's film follows Piaf's life from early childhood to her death in 1963. The movie ends with a performance of her famous song Non, je ne regrette rien.