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Édith Piaf Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 19 December 1915Belleville, Paris, France
Date of Death 11 October 1963Plascassier, Alpes-Maritimes, France  (liver cancer)
Birth NameEdith Giovanna Gassion
Nicknames La Môme Piaf
The French Billie Holiday
Height 4' 9¾" (1.47 m)

Mini Bio (1)

When one thinks of Edith Piaf, one thinks of love, sorrow and music. One did not breathe without the other two. Born in Paris practically on the streets on December 19, 1915, she struggled from day one, the daughter of street performers. The mother, a singer, eventually abandoned both Edith and her father for a solo career. Piaf spent her youth entertaining passers-by, receiving little formal education in the process. She often accompanied her father's acrobat street act with her singing and at various times was forced to live with various relatives, in alleys or in cheap hotels. An aborted love affair left her with a baby girl at age 17, but little Marcelle died of meningitis at 2 years old. Devastated, Piaf returned to the streets she knew, now performing solo.

Her fortunes finally changed when an impresario, Louis Leplee, mesmerized by what he heard, offered the starving but talented urchin a contract. He alone was responsible for taking her off the streets at age 20 and changing her name from Edith Gassion to "La Mome Piaf" (or "Kid Sparrow"). Piaf grew in status entertaining in elegant cafés and cabarets and became a singing sensation amid the chic French society with her throbbing vocals and raw, emotional power. From 1936 Piaf recorded many albums and eventually became one of the highest paid stars in the world. She was first embroiled in scandal when her mentor, Leplee, was murdered and she was held for questioning. She managed to survive the messy affair and carry on while her ever-growing society circle now began to include such elite members as writer/director Jean Cocteau. Piaf also took to writing and composing around this time; one of the over 80 songs she wrote included her signature standard, "La vie en rose." Although she appeared sporadically in films, it was live audiences that sustained her.

Piaf later toured the United States to branch out internationally. America was slow to accept the melodramatic Piaf but she persevered and eventually won legions of fans. She also continued a series of affairs with the likes of actor Paul Meurisse, composer Henry Contet and, most notably, boxing champion Marcel Cerdan. The latter's death in a 1949 plane crash left Piaf devastated and many claim this was the beginning of her downfall. Piaf had a life-long habit of involving herself heart and soul in the launching of her lovers' careers. Over the years this would include Yves Montand' and 'Eddie Constantine. Two serious car accidents suffered in 1951 led to a morphine and alcohol addiction that left Piaf's life skidding out of control despite a potentially happy marriage in 1952 to actor Jacques Pills. Though slowly crippled by severe arthritis, a series of spectacular comebacks in concert and recordings would follow over the years but her health would slowly waste her away. Her last appearance was at the Paris Olympia, racked and hunched over with pain and barely able to stand. Her last recorded song was "L'homme de Berlin" in 1963, the year of her death. She died in poverty on the same day as her friend Cocteau and at the age of 47, the same age as her equally tortured American counterpart, Judy Garland. Piaf left many debts for her second husband (and protégé) Theo Sarapo, who was twenty years younger (he died in 1970, at age 34). Piaf's funeral was massive yet, because of her lifestyle, was forbidden a Mass. It was the only time since WWII that Parisian traffic was completely stopped. A museum was dedicated in her honor. Piaf remains the epitome of the French singer in heart, soul, style and passion; for many Piaf IS France.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

Théo Sarapo (9 October 1962 - 11 October 1963) (her death)
Jacques Pills (20 September 1952 - 15 May 1957) (divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

Her black dress.
Petite frame.
Signature song: "La vie en rose".
Touching, powerful mezzo-soprano vocals.

Trivia (20)

Her stage name, 'piaf', is a slang word for 'small bird', which fitted her physical appearance.
Her grave is situated in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.
She is mentioned in the song "Lady Nina" by rock band Marillion.
Helped to launch many careers including that of Yves Montand, Eddie Constantine and her husband Théo Sarapo.
Was romantically involved with boxer Marcel Cerdan when he died tragically in a plane crash between Paris and Casablanca (1949).
She was very good friends with Marlene Dietrich, who was the maid of honor at her wedding to Jacques Pills.
Had a child named Marcelle who died at the age of two, in 1935, from meningitis.
Her father Louis-Alphonse Gassion was an acrobat, her mother Annetta Giovanna Maillard was a street singer.
Despite many problems throughout her career, Piaf eventually became the most highly paid star in the world.
Her mother was half Italian by her father and half Kabyle (Algerian) on her mother's side.
She actually died at Plascassier, Grasse parish, in the department of Alpes-Maritimes and not Paris, but her death wasn't made public until the body was returned to her birth city.
Is portrayed by Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose (2007), a biopic about her life.
Among her most popular songs are "Mon légionnaire" (1936), "La vie en rose" (1945), "Hymne à l'amour" (1949), "Sous le ciel de Paris" (1954), "Milord" (1959) and, the probably best known, "Non, je ne regrette rien" (1960).
Her song "La vie en rose" was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.
After living with her maternal grandmother for a short time, she was raised by her paternal grandmother, who ran a brothel in Normandy.
Daughter of Louis-Alphonse Gassion and wife Annetta Giovanna Maillard.
Her only child, a daughter Marcelle Dupont, died in 1935 from a meningitis aged 2.
On 12 June 2012, Piaf and jazz trumpeter Miles Davis were pictured on separate commemorative postage stamps in a joint issue by the USA and France. The nondenominated 'forever' USA stamps had an initial issue price of 45¢; each; the French stamps had denominations of 0,60 EUR (Davis) and 0,89 EUR (Piaf).
The theme of the celebrity's tragic life and death is recalled in the song "Cage the Songbird". A song written by Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Davey Johnstone and performed by Elton John, first appearing on the album Blue Moves in 1976. It tells the fictional story of torch singer Edith Piaf's last hours before a tragic suicide. "Cage the Songbird," is particularly noteworthy as it recalls the life of Edith Piaf in much the same way that "Candle in the Wind" had immortalized Marilyn Monroe.
In 2016, Lambert Wilson released the album "Wilson chante Montand" in which he sings the songs of Yves Montand. The musical arrangements of the 17 songs were made by Bruno Fontaine. Among the 17 tracks there is "Mais qu'est-ce que j'ai ?" composed by Henri Betti with the lyrics of Édith Piaf in 1947.

Personal Quotes (2)

You never know a guy till you've tried him in bed. You know more about a guy in one night in bed than you do in months of conversation. In the sack, they can't cheat!
For me, singing is a way of escaping. It is another world. I'm no longer on earth.

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