Edith Piaf by Anat Katz - Ourboox.com
This free e-book was created with

Create your own amazing e-book!
It's simple and free.

Start now

Edith Piaf

  • Joined Jan 2020
  • Published Books 1

Edith Piaf was one of France’s most beloved singers, with much success shortly before and during World War II. Her music reflected her tragic life, with her specialty being the poignant ballad presented with a heartbreaking voice. The most famous songs performed by Piaf were La Vie en Rose (1946), Milord (1959), and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (1960).

Edith Piaf by Anat Katz - Ourboox.com

Early Life

Édith Giovanna Gassion was born in 1915 in Paris. Legend has it that she was born on the steps of her parents’ building on Rue de Belleville street. That’s actually not true, and the truth is much less interesting – she was born at a hospital… but the story is so appealing that it endures.


Her father was a street artist of acrobatics from Normandy, and her mother was a singer and circus performer.

After her mother abandoned her and her father enlisted to fight in WWI, Edith was taken in by her grandmother, who owned a brothel in Normandy.



From age 3 to 7, she was blind. As part of the legend, she allegedly recovered her sight after her grandmother’s prostitutes went to a pilgrimage. Piaf claimed this was the result of a miraculous healing.


At the age of 7, she joined her father and a circus caravan to travel to Belgium, eventually participating in street performances all over France.


Piaf later separated from her father, who was often a temperamental, abusive taskmaster, and set out on her own as a street singer in and around Paris. At 17, she and a youngster named Louis Dupont had a daughter, Marcelle, who died of meningitis at 2 years old.


Rise to Fame

In 1935, Piaf was discovered by Louis Leple, the owner of a successful club off the Champs-Élysées. Her nervous energy and small stature inspired the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life: La Môme Piaf (“The Little Sparrow”).

Her first record was produced in the same year. Shortly thereafter, Leple was murdered and Piaf was accused of being an accessory; she was acquitted.


In 1940, Jean Cocteau wrote the successful play Le Bel Indifferent for her to star in. She began to make friends with famous people, such as the actor Maurice Chevalier and the poet Jacques Borgeat.

Edith Piaf by Anat Katz - Ourboox.com

Edith wrote her signature song, La Vie en Rose, in the middle of the German occupation in World War II. During this time, she was in great demand and very successful. Singing for high-ranking Germans earned her the right to pose for photos with French prisoners of war, ostensibly as a morale-boosting exercise. Once in possession of their celebrity photos, prisoners were able to cut out their own images and use them in forged papers as part of escape plans. Today, Edith Piaf’s association with the French Resistance is well known and many owe their lives to her. After the war, Edith toured Europe, the United States, and South America, becoming an internationally known figure.

This is her performance on The Ed Sullivan Show with La Vie en Rose, lyrics on the right:



La Vie en Rose

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
When he takes me into his arms
Il me parle l’a tout bas
He speaks to me softly
Je vois la vie en rose
And I see life through rose-colored glasses
Il me dit des mots d’amour
He speaks words of love to me
Des mots de tous les jours
They are every day words
Et ça m’ fait quelque chose
And they do something to me
Il est entré dans mon coeur
He has entered into my heart
Une part de bonheur
A bit of happiness
Dont je connais la cause
That I know the cause of
C’est lui pour moi
It’s only him for me
Moi pour lui dans la vie
And me for him, for life
Il me l’a dit, l’a jure pour la vie
He told me, he swore to me, for life

Piaf achieved lasting fame, giving several series of concerts at the Paris Olympia music hall, the most famous venue in Paris, between January 1955 and October 1962. The 1961 concerts, promised by Piaf in an effort to save the venue from bankruptcy, debuted her song “Non, je ne regrette rien”.


She also performed at the well-known Carnagie Hall in New York twice, in 1956 and 1957.


In April 1963, Piaf recorded her last song, “L’Homme de Berlin”.


Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

This video features the english translation of the lyrics.

If you want, first try to listen to the music without looking at the lyrics, and see if you relate to the music despite the language barrier 🙂


Personal Life

The great love of Piaf’s life, the married boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash in October 1949, while flying from Paris to New York City to meet her. She recorded “L’Hymne à L’Amour” the following year in his honor.


In 1951, Piaf was seriously injured in a car crash along with Charles Aznavour, breaking her arm and two ribs, and thereafter had serious difficulties arising from morphine and alcohol addictions. Two more near-fatal car crashes exacerbated the situation. Jacques Pills, her first husband, took her into rehabilitation on three different occasions to no avail.


Piaf divorced Pills in 1957. In 1962, she wed Théo Sarapo – a singer, actor, and former hairdresser. Sarapo was 20 years her junior. The couple sang together in some of her last engagements.





Death and Legacy

Years of alcohol abuse alongside copious amounts of medications took their toll on Piaf’s health. She died from liver failure on October 10, 1963. She was 47.


The archbishop of Paris denied requests for a Mass, citing Piaf’s irreligious lifestyle, but her funeral procession was nonetheless a massive undertaking attended by more than 100,000 devotees.


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.


She is buried in a cemetery in Paris next to her daughter Marcelle.


The crowd at Piaf’s funeral:



There were several tributes to the memory of Edith Piaf:

  • A soviet astronomer named a small planet, 3772 Piaf, in her honor.
  • In Paris, a two-room museum is dedicated to her.
  • Elton John and Bernie Taupin, along with their guitarist Davey Johnstone, co-wrote a haunting tribute to Piaf for his 1976 album Blue Moves. It’s a fictional tale, with Piaf dying alone in her dressing room after a show. Singers David Crosby and Graham Nash perform on the track (right page)
  • On 10 October 2013, fifty years after her death, the Roman Catholic Church recanted and gave Piaf a memorial Mass in the St. Jean-Baptiste Church in Belleville, Paris, the parish into which she was born.




La Vie En Rose – The Movie

A lauded biopic on Piaf was released in 2007—La Vie en Rose, with French actress Marion Cotillard ardently embodying the singer and earning an Academy Award.


The film is structured as a largely non-linear series of key events from the life of Édith Piaf. It begins with elements from her childhood, and at the end with the events prior to and surrounding her death, poignantly juxtaposed by a performance of her song, “Non, je ne regrette rien”.




A Personal Note

I chose to write a book about Edith Piaf because she is my parents’ favorite singer. When I told my mom I’m writing this book, she said “I love her music so much. Even though I don’t understand any of the lyrics she sings, I feel like she’s singing about my life“.

This book was written as my final assignment in the course Popular Music of the 20th Century. In the course, we try to find the secret ingredient that makes a song or an artist popular and everlasting in our memory.

I believe Edith Piaf is really a great example to an artist who is iconic and timeless – and I hope that after reading this book, you can understand why.

Edith Piaf by Anat Katz - Ourboox.com
This free e-book was created with

Create your own amazing e-book!
It's simple and free.

Start now

Ad Remove Ads [X]
Skip to content