French music project Edith Piaf Birth name Edith Giovanna Gassion Also known as La Mome Piaf Born 19 December 1915 Died 11 october 1963 (aged 47) Genres cabaret, torch songs, chanson Early life Much of Piaf’s life is a big mystery. She was born Edith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris. Her birth certificate has the Hopital Tenon, the hospital for the 20th arrondissement of which Belleville is part. She was named Edith after the World War I British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping French soldiers escape from German captivity.
Piaf the same for “sparrow”—was a nickname she would receive 20 years later. Her mother, Annetta Giovanna Maillard (1895–1945), was of French descent on her father’s side and of Italian origin on her mother’s. She worked as a cafe singer under the name Line Marsa. Louis-Alphonse Gassion (1881–1944), Edith’s father, was a Norman street acrobat with a past in the theatre. Edith’s parents soon abandoned her, and she lived for a short time with her grandmother, Emma (Aicha) Said ben Mohammed (1876–1930). Before he enlisted with the French Army in 1916 to fight in World War I, her father took her to his mother, who ran a brothel in Normandy.
There,they helped look after Piaf. From the age of three to seven, Piaf was went blind as a result of keratitis. She recovered her sight after her grandmother’s workers pooled money to send her on a pilgrimage honoring Saint Therese of Lisieux, which resulted in a miraculous healing. In 1929, at 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public. She took a room at Grand Hotel de Clermont (18 rue Veron, Paris 18eme) and separated from him, going her own way as a street singer in Pigalle, Menilmontant, and the Paris suburbs.
She joined her friend Simone Berteaut and the two became lifelong partners in mischief. She was about 16 when she fell in love with Louis Dupont, a delivery boy. At 17, she had her only child, a girl named Marcelle, who died of meningitis at age two. Like her mother, Piaf found it difficult to care for a child while living a life of the streets, so she often left Marcelle behind while she was away, and Dupont raised her until her death. Singing career In 1935 Piaf was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplee.
He persuaded her to sing despite her extreme nervousness, which, combined with her height of only 4 ft 8 in, 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 Mome Piaf ( translates as “The Waif Sparrow”, “The Little Sparrow”, or “Kid Sparrow”). Leplee taught her the basics of stage presence and told her to wear a black dress, later to become her trademark apparel. Leplee ran an intense publicity campaign leading up to her opening night, attracting the presence of many celebrities, including actor Maurice Chevalier.
Her nightclub gigs led to her first two records produced that same year, with one of them by Marguerite Monnot, a collaborator throughout Piaf’s life. On 6 April 1936, Leplee was murdered and Piaf was questioned and accused as an accessory, but was acquitted. Leplee had been killed by mobsters with previous ties to Piaf. To rehabilitate her image, she recruited Raymond Asso, with whom she would become romantically involved. He changed her stage name to “Edith Piaf”, barred undesirable acquaintances from seeing her, and had Monnot write songs that reflected or alluded to Piaf’s previous life on the streets.
In 1940, Edith co-starred in one successful act, play Le Bel Indifferent. She began forming friendships with prominent people, including Chevalier and poet Jacques Borgeat. She wrote the lyrics of many of her songs and collaborated with composers on the tunes. In 1944, she discovered Yves Montand in Paris, made him part of her act, and became his mentor and lover. Within a year, he became one of the most famous singers in France, and she broke off their relationship when he had become almost as popular as she was.
During this time she was in great demand and very successful in Paris as France’s most popular entertainer. After the war, she became known internationally, touring Europe, the United States, and South America. In Paris, she gave Hector Roberto Chavero the most important Argentine musician of folklore,the opportunity to share the scene, making his debut in July 1950. She helped launch the career of Charles Aznavour in the early 1950s, taking him on tour with her in France and the United States and recording some of his songs. At first she met with little success with U.
S. audiences, who regarded her as downcast. After a glowing review by a prominent New York critic, however, her popularity grew, to the point where she eventually appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show eight times and at Carnegie Hall twice (1956 and 1957). Edith Piaf’s signature song “La vie en rose” was written in 1945 and was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998. Bruno Coquatrix’s famous Paris Olympia music hall is where Piaf achieved lasting fame, giving several series of concerts at the hall, the most famous venue in Paris, 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. The 1961 concerts were promised by Piaf in an effort to save the venue from bankruptcy and where she debuted her song “Non, je ne regrette rien”. In April 1963, Piaf recorded her last song, “L’homme de Berlin”. Death and legecy Piaf died of liver cancer aged 47 at Plascassier, on the French Riviera, on 11 October 1963. She had been drifting in and out of consciousness for several months. It is said that Sarapo drove her body back to Paris secretly so that fans would think she had died in her hometown.
She is buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris next to her daughter Marcelle, where her grave is among the most visited. Although she was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, her funeral procession drew tens of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than 100,000 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.
In Paris, a two-room museum is dedicated to her, the Musee Edith Piaf. Some of her songs ?C’Etait Pas Moi ?Le Chant d’Amour ?Tiens, V’la un Marin ?J’En Ai Tant Vu ?Traque ?Les Gens ?Margot C? ur Gros ?Monsieur Incognito ?Un Dimanche a Londres ?L’Homme de Berlin (her last recording) ?Roulez Tambours ?Musique a Tout Va ?Le Rendez-Vous ?Toi, Tu l’Entends Pas! ?Carmen’s Story ?On Cherche un Auguste ?Ca Fait Drole ?Emporte-Moi ?Polichinelle ?Entre Saint-Ouen et Clignancourt ?L’Etranger ?Mon Apero ?La Java de Cezigue ?Fais-Moi Valser