Édith Piaf

Picture of Édith Piaf

Who: Édith Piaf, France’s most famous singer

Why She Dazzles: Édith, born Édith Giovanna Gassion, was a petite songstress who stood tall at 4’8 and sang powerful ballads about love, loss, and sorrow. “La Vie en Rose” is one of those songs that you instantly recognize, even though you may not understand the words. Or, if you still watch commercials, you hear “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” on the regular. Her passionate songs combined with her raw voice make her the gold standard, or statue in some cases, for singers.

Why You Need to Know Her Today: Her songs ring relevant in every decade because her music conveys tragedy and heartache in her expressive voice. Iconic superstars like Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong recorded versions of her song, and even Lady Gaga debuted her version wearing Edith’s trademark eyebrows in A Star is Born.

What She Would Say—Because She Said It Then: “Use your faults, use your defects; then you’re going to be a star.”

Picture of a rose coin necklace from Local Eclectic by Wolf Circus
“La Vie en Rose” literally means “Life in Pink” but can also be translated as “Life in Rosy Hues” or “Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses”.

 

What She Would Wear to a Performance Tonight: No question—a rose. Édith’s signature song, “La Vie en Rose,” meaning “Life in Pink,” made her internationally famous soon after it released in 1947. She wrote the song a few years before its single debuted, originally calling it “Things in Pink” until “Life in Pink” was suggested instead. “La Vie en Rose” appealed to wartime survivors for its lyrics, and she began touring South America, Europe, and the United States as an international superstar.

Picture of vintage vanity mirrors on greeting cards on Etsy by BethAndOlivia
“Madame Edith Piaf is a genius,” wrote close friend and playwright Jean Cocteau after watching her sing. “There has never been anyone like her; there never will be.”

 

What She Would Send to Her Friend: Édith led a wild, bohemian lifestyle that introduced her to many lovers. These affairs, along with her difficult childhood and harsh street-life, infused impassioned and emotional songs that she wrote or collaborated on with poets and singers. Watch her for a few moments and perhaps she will do just as she wants you to do: “I want to make people cry even when they don’t understand my words.”

Picture of Musée Edith Piaf in Paris, France
The only museum dedicated to Édith Piaf was once the singer’s apartment in the Ménilmontant district of Paris at the start of her career.

 

Where She Would Instagram: Paris. Born into poverty in 1915, Édith sang on the streets of Paris until 1935 when she was discovered by the owner of a cabaret off of the Champs-Élysées. True fact: The owner, Louis Leplée, gave her the nickname “la môme piaf,” or “the little sparrow,” which became her stage name Édith Piaf. She performed most frequently at the famous L’Olympia concert hall (which was co-founded by the co-creators of the Moulin Rouge), and other large music venues around the city.

Tweet This: Édith Piaf was denied a funeral mass in 1963 because of her rowdy lifestyle, but the Roman Catholic Church gave her a memorial Mass in Paris 50 years after her death #anewlady

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