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Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf (December 19, 1915 - October 11, 1963) was a French singer.

Born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Paris, France, she was a street singer from the age of 15 who would become France's most beloved songstress.

In 1935, Edith was discovered by a nightclub owner whose club was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. He convinced Edith to sing despite her extreme nervousness, and gave her the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life: La Mome Piaf (The Little Sparrow). From this she took her stage name. In 1940, Jean Cocteau wrote the successful play Le Bel Indifferent for her to star in.

The product of a mother who worked as a cafe singer and father who was a well-known acrobat, her childhood and adult life was filled with tragedy. Her music reflected her life, her specialty was the poignant ballad, and soon all of Paris was talking about the waif with the heartbreaking voice. She began to make friends with famous people, such as the actor Maurice Chevalier and the poet Jacques Borgeat[?].

She wrote her signature song, La Vie en Rose, in the middle of the German Occupation in World War II. While the Germans occupied Paris, she was in great demand and very successful. Singing for high-ranking Germans at the One Two Two Club earned Edith Piaf 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 as a result. After the war, Edith toured Europe, the United States, and South America, becoming an internationally known figure.

She helped to launch the career of Charles Aznavour, taking him on tour with her in France and to the United States.


The grave of Edith Piaf (1915-1963). Larger version
The Paris Olympia is the place where Edith Piaf achieved fame and where, just a few months before her death from cancer, she gave one of her most memorable concerts while barely able to stand. In early 1963, Edith recorded her last song, L'homme de Berlin.

Piaf died of cancer on the same day as her friend, Jean Cocteau, and was buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Although forbidden a Mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris (because of her lifestyle), her funeral procession drew hundreds of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the Cemetery was jammed with more than forty thousand fans. Charles Aznavour recalled that Piaf's funeral procession was the only time, since the end of World War II, that Parisian traffic came to a complete stop.

There is a museum dedicated to Piaf, the Musée Edith Piaf[?] at 5, rue Crespin du Gast, 75011, Paris.



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