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 Gernys 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. Piafs 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 Leplées murder and facing accusations of collaboration with the German occupying forces.
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