Piaf, Edith

SINGER (FRANCE)
BORN 19 Dec 1915, Paris: Hôpital Tenon - DIED 10 Oct 1963, Plascassier, Alpes Maritimes
REAL NAME Gassion, Edith Giovanna
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 97, 2eme ligne)

Edith Piaf was of Algerian and Italian decent. Her mother was a café singer from Livorno and her father a street acrobat. She was named after the famous nurse Edith Cavell. She grew up in her mother´s brothel, looked after by her mother as well as prostitutes.

It seems that as a child she was blind for several years. She regained her eyesight and joined her father on the street in 1929. Soon she went her own way as a street singer in Paris. She befriended Simone Berteaut, a friendship that would last all their lives. When she was seventeen she had a daughter, Marcelle, from a delivery boy, Louis Dupont. Marcelle died when she was two.

In 1935 night club owner Louis Leplée engaged her for his club Le Gerny. Because her height was only 147 cm he called her La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow). She was an instant succes and made two records during the same year. In 1936 Leplée was murdered. She was suspected to be involved in the murder, but she was acquitted.

Raymond Asso was hired to restart her career and she also had a relationship with him. He changed her stage name to Edith Piaf. In the 1940s she befriended Maurice Chevalier and Jacques Borgeat. In 1944 she discoverd Yves Montand, who became her lover. Soon he became very famous and she ended their relationship.

During the war she performed in occupied France for German soldiers, but later she claimed that she had worked for the resistance. In fact she helped several people to escape from the nazi's.

After the Second World War she toured Europe, the USA and South America. In 1949 her great love Marcel Cerdan, a boxer, died in a plane crash together with violinist Ginette Neveu. Early in the 1950s she supported the career of Charles Aznavour, who went on tour with her. In 1951 she was injured in a car crash and afterwards she used morphine and alcohol against the pain.

In 1953 she married the singer Jacques Pills in the presence of Marlene Dietrich. She divorced him in 1956. In the Paris Olympia concert hall she gave many concerts between 1955 and 1962. In 1960 she first performed her famous song "Je ne regrette rien". In 1962 she married Théo Sarapo who was twenty years her junior. She sang several duets with him.

Her alcohol and drug abuse had destroyed her health and on 10 Oct 1963 she died of liver cancer in her villa in Plascassier on the French Riviera. Her death was made public on 11 Oct, the day that Jean Cocteau died. It is possible that Sarapo drove her body back to Paris to make her fans think that she had died there. When she was buried at Père Lachaise in Paris over 100.000 people attended the ceremony at the cemetery. Sarapo was buried beside her in 1970.

Related persons
• was the lover of Montand, Yves

Sources
Édith Piaf - Wikipedia

Images

The grave of Edith Piaf at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (28 Aug 2001)

 


Piaget, Jean

Published: 30 Apr 2009
Last update: 7 Nov 2010