Edith Piaf: The Little Sparrow

© Capitol Records, 1991

Quick Biography

Edith Piaf was born Edith Giovanna Gassion on December 19, 1915 in Paris, France. She died on either October 10 or October 11, 1963 (the date is disputed) in Cannes, France. At only 4'8", she was known as "La Mome Piaf," or "The Little Sparrow." She was married twice and had one child who died in infancy.

Tragic Early Life

Legend has it that Edith Piaf was born on the streets of Paris -- the working-class Belleville neighborhood, to be more exact -- on a cold winter night to a 17-year-old mother who was a café singer and a father who was a street acrobat.

Her mother soon abandoned her, and she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother, who was the madam of a brothel. It's said that she was completely blind from ages 3-7, and she claimed to have been miraculously cured when the prostitutes prayed for her on a religious pilgrimage.

Teen Years

In 1929, Edith Piaf left the brothel and joined her father as a street performer, singing throughout Paris and surrounding cities. At age 16, she fell in love with a young man named Louis Dupont and bore his child. Sadly, their daughter, named Marcelle, died before the age of two of meningitis.

Edith Piaf Gets Discovered

Louis Leplee, the owner of a popular Paris nightclub, discovered Piaf in 1935 and invited her to perform in his club. It was Leplee who gave bestowed her nickname, "La Môme Piaf" upon her. She adopted this as her stage name. Years of touring brought her moderate financial success, but great popularity.

World War II

During the World War II German occupations of Paris, Piaf was part of the French resistance. She cleverly won the hearts of the high-ranking Nazis, thus giving her access to French prisoners of war, many of whom she helped escape.

Worldwide Success and More Tragedy

After WWII ended, Edith Piaf began to tour the world, achieving international fame and popularity.

In 1951, Piaf was in a car accident, and her injuries resulted in a lifelong addiction to morphine.

Her Many Loves

Edith Piaf's true love was boxer Marcel Cerdan, though they never married. Cerdan died in 1949. Piaf subsequently married singer Jacques Pills in 1952. They divorced in 1956. In 1962, Piaf married singer/actor Theo Sarapo, who was twenty years her junior. They stayed married until Piaf's death. Along the way, she had many other lovers.

Edith Piaf's Death

Piaf died of cancer in 1963, near Cannes. The date is disputed; it is said that she actually passed on October 10, but her official date of death is October 11. Her husband, Theo Sarapo, was with her at the time. Piaf is buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Read More: How Did Edith Piaf Die?

Edith Piaf's Greatest Songs

Piaf is best-known for her songs "La Vie en Rose" (which is also the title of an Academy Award-winning biopic of the star), "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," and "Hymne A L'Amour."

Edith Piaf Starter CDs

The Voice of The Sparrow (Compare Prices) - A great general collection containing Piaf's greatest hits
L'Accordéoniste (Compare Prices) - A beautiful collection of slightly lesser-known songs
30th Anniversary Box Set (Compare Prices) - For the die-hard collector, her complete discography (10 discs!)

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Your Citation
Romer, Megan. "Edith Piaf: The Little Sparrow." ThoughtCo, May. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/edith-piaf-the-little-sparrow-3552757. Romer, Megan. (2017, May 4). Edith Piaf: The Little Sparrow. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/edith-piaf-the-little-sparrow-3552757 Romer, Megan. "Edith Piaf: The Little Sparrow." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/edith-piaf-the-little-sparrow-3552757 (accessed October 17, 2017).