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Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf (Gassion; 19 December 1915 - 10 October 1963) was a French singer who has become widely regarded as France's most popular.

She was born in Belleville Paris to a circus performing father and street-singing mother. Abandoned by her parents to live with her grandmother who ran a brothel in Normandy, at 14 she rejoined her father in the circus. Like her mother, she started singing on the streets of Paris as a young girl. While singing in Pigalle she was discovered by a Champs-Elysees nightclub owner who started her career and gave her the nickname La Môme Piaf  ("The Little Sparrow" - little comes from the fact she was only 142cm tall).

Piaf had much tragedy in her life, including the death of her daughter at age 2 when she was 17, which probably inspired the emotion she evoked from her ballad songs which have become French classics including 'La Vie en rose', 'Non, je ne regrette rien' (No Regrets) and 'Hymne à l'amour'.

A film about her life, La Vie en rose (La Môme in France), was made in 2007 and  starred Marion Cotillard in the role that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress (Oscar).

She is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris next to her daughter - her grave is among the most visited and always adorned with flowers. Although she was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, her funeral procession was followed by tens of thousands of mourners - the only time since the end of World War II that Parisian traffic has come to a complete stop.

In Paris, a private two-room museum is dedicated to her, the Musée Édith Piaf.  It is located at on the fourth floor 5 Rue Crespin du Gast in the 11th arrondissement (metro Ménilmontant) near the  cemetery.  The museum is run by one of her fans Bernard Marchois and is open by appointment Mon-Wed 1-6pm but you need to call first on phone number 01-43-55-52-72 to get the security code; admission is free but donations appreciated. It contains memorabilia including her china collection, gold and platinum records, dress and shoes, photographs, fan letters, sheet music, posters, and recordings.

Click image left to watch video compilation of her song 'No Regrets' - French with English subtitles.

Read an article about Edith Piaf on the 50th anniversary of her death from the Australian newspaper.


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