Vintage People • Iconic Women

“Edith Piaf, the strength of a sparrow from Paris”

10 March, 2015

Under the nickname of “Piaf” – “sparrow” in French – due to her weak appearance, Edith Giovanna Gassion was the most important French singer in the past century.

She was born in 1915 within a broken home. She was grown by her grandmother, who was a brothel owner, after she was abandoned by her mother when she was still a little girl. This sad childhood, when she had a temporary blindness too, became into an identity symbol for the rest of her life. Life seemed to be determined to treat her badly.

When she still was a teenager, while she was singing with her stepsister in the streets of Paris, she happened to get pregnant. However, her daughter died after two years because of a meningitis. Sadly, Piaf couldn’t give birth anymore, what meant a great tragedy to her.


In 1935 her luck changed when she was discovered by Louis Leplée, a manager who regented the cabaret in the Champs Elysees. He got impressed by her voice and offered her to act in his place. He also gave her the nickname of Piaf, under which she was famous later.

Life started to get better for Piaf, that singer you might have seen with her eternal black dresses, but tragedy crossed her way again. Leplée was murdered in unknown circumstances and so her career was truncated. Only someone with the talent and strength of Piaf could overcome these many tragedies. From then onwards she survived singing in little places in the Paris of the IIWW. When the war was over, better years came.

She turned to be the muse of artists and intellectuals. It was her golden epoque. Her lyrics and actings excited everyone. She started singing in the most prestigious scenerios in Europe and America. Part of the money she earned she gave it to help other young singers who wanted to have a chance in this world.


Love, however, wasn’t as generous as fame with her. She had many short-time lovers. Some of them became famous as well, like Yves Montand or Charles Aznavour. Who was considered the love of her life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash in 1949. She then sunk into depression that would mean the beginning of her decadence.

Despite this, Edith Piaf kept singing. A few year later some hits came like La vie en rose and her critically acclaimed Non, je ne regrette rien. She also took part in movies and theatrical productions.

The “Piaf of Paris”, with a weaker health because of a cáncer and with a huge addiction to morphine, had to stop her actings to recover. But she always managed to fly again.

Her last strength was to get married in 1962, just one year before she died, with her young hairdresser.

Her wonderful voice, her exceptional personality and her complex and tormented life were so fascinating that in 2007 her story was taken to the big screen. La vie en rose was stared by Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar for this performance.


Texto @Esther Ginés

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