Edith Piaf Biography

Edith Giovanna Gassion, 19 December 1915, Paris, France, d. 11 October 1963, Paris, France. Born into desperate poverty, Piaf survived desertion by her mother and temporary childhood blindness, to eke out a living singing on the streets of Paris. After a brief period living in the country she sang in the streets with her father, an impoverished entertainer. The owner of Gerny’s cabaret, Louis Leplée, heard the little girl and not only encouraged her but, struck by her diminutive stature, nicknamed her ‘piaf’, Parisian argot for ‘little sparrow’. Piaf’s dramatic singing style and her anguished voice appealed to French audiences and by the outbreak of World War II she had become a star. She proved her capacity for survival when she maintained her popularity despite being held as a material witness to Leplée’s murder and facing accusations of collaboration with the German occupying forces.

After the war Piaf’s reputation spread internationally and she appeared in New York, singing at Carnegie Hall. In her private life Piaf was as tormented as the heroines of her songs and she had many relationships, most causing her severe emotional damage. She collapsed in 1959 but came back to sing with renewed vigour, even though her physical condition was visibly deteriorating. Among her many hits were several songs that she made her own, ‘Les Trois Cloches’, ‘Milord’, ‘La Vie En Rose’ and, above all others, if only because the sentiment expressed in the title and lyric so eloquently expressed her attitude to life, ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.