Edith Piaf and a Life Behind Rose Tinted Glasses


2018-01-13 10:25 GMT+8

The curtains part and the spotlight shines down on the center of the stage. A delicate figure takes her place and begins to sing with a strong, melodious voice. It’s like watching an angel perform in heaven. It could be no other than the French queen of chanson song, Edith Piaf.

The brighter the light shines on her, the darker is her shadow. Lurking behind a talent and fame that captivated the world was a woman who overcome a life full of sickness, suffering, and loneliness with strength and a soft heart. Edith Giovanna Gassion was born on December 19th, 1915. Her father, Louis Gassion, was a circus acrobat and her mother, Annetta Maillard was a café singer. Louis returned from fighting during WW1 to find Edith’s mother had abandoned her. The child was living a life of poverty with her maternal grandmother.

Louis brought his daughter to his mother to be cared for. It wasn’t long before Edith’s eyesight began to fade due to a sickness. At the age of 3, she lost her eyesight completely. When they had lost all hope in her recovery, Edith’s grandmother took her to the Church of Saint Teresa. On July 25th, 1921 young Edith’s vision was miraculously restored. Her grandmother put her in school but Edith could not study for long.

When Edith was 14 years old, her father took her to Paris to sing on the streets while he performed his acrobatics. There, Edith met her younger half-sister, Simone with whom she would eventually live with all her life. Edith and Simone were able to make enough money singing to rent a small room and move away from their father. At the age of 17, Edith met Louis Dupont. The two of them had a daughter together.

Marcelle, lived until the age of two, when she died of disease, possibly of meningitis. In 1935, Edith was invited by Louis Leplée to perform in his cabaret, Le Gerny. It was Leplée who gave Edith the name of “piaf”, a slang word for “sparrow”, and first taught her how to perform on stage and which songs to choose. Whether or not she was to continue as a cabaret singer, her fate was sealed that night when she met Raymond Asso.

Asso, besides teaching Edith the finer points of the singing profession, wrote songs for her. He got Edith to sing in Paris’ most famous music hall, “ABC”. The following morning the newspapers reviewed the performance and Edith was the topic of conversation all over the city. From that morning on, a wave of large concerts, radio shows, and fans awaited Edith. During WW2, Edith never left her country, in fact, she never left the stage. She continued performing concerts during the German occupation and even traveled throughout Germany, using her fame and influences to help the Jews.

After the war, Edith traveled abroad, performing all over Europe and North and South America. While in the United States, Edith met Marcel Cerdan, a boxer from Morocco. It is said he was the greatest love of her life. Unfortunately, the happy days did not last very long. In 1949, Marcel’s plane went down over the ocean when he was on his way to visit his beloved Edith in the United States. This came as an incredible blow to Edith who took to the streets again and began to drink heavily.

She soon met singer, Jacques Pills and continued on in her career as a singer. In 1952, Edith was involved in 2 car accidents that left her badly injured. She became addicted to morphine and pain killers and eventually divorced Pills. She dove into her work with more energy and worked harder than ever before. On her way to the peak of her artistic success, Edith Piaf helped many other young artists.

A number of singers and musicians owe their fame and success to her. In 1958, following a series of concerts in the United States and Europe, Edith’s health took a turn for the worse. As her health worsened, her abuse of heavy painkillers increased. Still she continued doing her work. In 1961, Edith Piaf was diagnosed with liver cancer. On September 25th, Edith held a concert on the top floor of the Eiffel Tower. Her songs “My Lord”, “Hymn to Love”, “Toppa”, “Life through rose-tinted Glasses”, and “No, I do not regret anything” could be heard all over Paris. Six months later, at her last concert, audience members stood and listened in reverence.

On October 10, 1963 the famous singer said goodbye to this world. She was loved not just by France, but by the entire world. For the second time since WW2 Victory Day, traffic came to a standstill on the streets of Paris for her funeral. Her songs of love, joy, and peace are still move the hearts of her fans all over the world today.

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