Édith Piaf 19 December 1915 – 10 October 1963; born Édith Giovanna Gassion) was a French cabaret singer, songwriter and actress who became widely regarded as France’s national chanteuse, as well as being one of France’s greatest international stars.
Her music was often autobiographical with her singing reflecting her life, and her specialty being chanson and torch ballads, particularly of love, loss and sorrow. Among her well known songs are “La Vie en rose” (1946), “Non, je ne regrette rien” (1960), “Hymne à l’amour” (1949), “Milord” (1959), “La Foule” (1957), “L’Accordéoniste (fr)” (1955), and “Padam … Padam …” (1951).
Since her premature death in 1963 and with the aid of several biographies and films including 2007’s Academy Award winning La Vie en rose, Piaf has acquired a legacy as one of the greatest performers of the 20th century, and her voice and music continue to be celebrated globally.
In 1935, Piaf was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny’s off the Champs-Élysées] was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. He persuaded her to sing despite her extreme nervousness, which, combined with her height of only 142 centimetres (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 Môme Piaf (Paris slang meaning “The Waif Sparrow” or “The Little Sparrow”).
In 1940, Piaf co-starred in Jean Cocteau‘s successful one-act play Le Bel Indifférent. The German occupation of Paris didn’t stop her career, to the contrary, she began forming friendships with prominent people, including Chevalier and poet Jacques Bourgeat. She wrote the lyrics of many of her songs and collaborated with composers on the tunes. Spring 1944 saw the first cooperation and a love affair with Yves Montand in the Moulin Rouge.
In 1947, she wrote the lyrics to the song “Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai ?” (music by Henri Betti) for Yves Montand. Within a year, he became one of the most famous singers in France. 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 Atahualpa Yupanqui (Héctor Roberto Chavero) – a central figure in the Argentine folk music tradition – the opportunity to share the scene, making his debut in July 1950. At first she met with little success with U.S. audiences, who regarded her as downcast.
After a glowing 1947 review in the New York Herald Tribune by the influential New York critic Virgil Thompson, himself a contributor to international avant garde culture, 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).
NO REGRET FOR SUCH A BRILLIANT LIFE! DO YOU AGREE?