Edith Piaf Portrait – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regrets)
A personal tribute to Edith Piaf, one of the finest singers of all time.
Sometimes in our life’s we are fortunate enough to come across someone who truly touches our hearts. A person who makes us feel and think in ways that we have never done before. Edith Piaf is one of those people.
Her voice touched millions of people. She sang about life, love and loss. She herself suffered so much heartache and pain, and yet when she sang she sang, with so much love, that you could actually feel the words well up inside you. Her on stage performance went beyond that of a lady singing to her audience, but of someone singing to her lover. It was all about love for Piaf.
Despite everything that had happened in her life, love was one thing that she believed and said that without it we are nothing at all.
Edith was born December 19th 1915, Belleville Paris. She was cared for by her mother, but only for a short period and then Edith was raised by her maternal grandmother.
n 1929, at age 14, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first sang in public. At the age of 15, Edith met Simone “Mômone” Berteaut, who may have been her half-sister, definitely a companion for most of her life, and together they toured the streets singing and earning money for themselves for the first time. With the additional money Edith earned as part of an acrobatic trio, Edith and Mômone were able to rent their own living space. She separated from her father and took a room at Grand Hôtel de Clermont (18 rue Veron, Paris 18ème), working with Marmone as a street singer in Pigalle, Ménilmontant, and the Paris suburbs (cf. the song “Elle fréquentait la Rue Pigalle“).
In 1932, she met and fell in love with Louis Dupont. Within a very short time, he moved into their small room, where the three lived despite Louis’ and Mômone’s dislike for each other. Louis was never happy with the idea of Edith’s roaming the streets, and continually persuaded her to take jobs he found for her. She resisted his persuasions whenever possible, until she became pregnant and worked for a short while making wreaths in a factory.
In February 1933, when Edith was 17 years old, her daughter, Marcelle, was born in the Hôpital Tenon. Like her mother, Piaf found it difficult to care for a child while living a life of the streets, as she had little maternal instinct, parenting knowledge or domestic skills. She rapidly returned to street singing, until the summer of 1933, when she opened at Juan-les-Pins, Rue Pigalle. Marcelle’s father, Louis, whom Edith never married, was incensed. They quarrelled and Edith left, taking Mômone and Marcelle. The three of them stayed at the Hôtel Au Clair de Lune, Rue André-Antoine. Marcelle was often left alone in the room while Edith and Mômone were out on the streets or at the club singing, and died of meningitis at age two.
n 1935, Piaf was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. He persuaded her to sing despite her extreme nervousness, which, combined with her height of only 142 centimetres (4 ft 8 in), inspired him to give her the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life and serve as her stage name, La Môme Piaf (Paris slang meaning “The Waif Sparrow” or “The Little Sparrow”). Leplée taught her the basics of stage presence and told her to wear a black dress, which became her trademark apparel. Later, she would always appear in black. Leplée ran an intense publicity campaign leading up to her opening night, attracting the presence of many celebrities, including actor Maurice Chevalier. Her nightclub gigs led to her first two records produced that same year, with one of them penned by Marguerite Monnot, a collaborator throughout Piaf’s life and one of her favourite composers.
Édith Piaf’s signature song, “La vie en rose“, was written in 1945 and was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998. It has recently been covered by female artist Melody Gardot, a version that Piaf would be proud of. The same passion that you feel when Piaf sings is also true for Gardot. A personal favourite of mine.
Although Piaf was never short of admirers and was married twice, there was only one great love of her life, Marcel Cerdan a boxer who died in a plane crash. Even though she lost the love of her life she still sang and gave hope to millions of people that whatever life throws at you, good things still happen and finding love is one of them.
Piaf died at the young age of 47, she had liver cancer. Although she was denied a Roman Catholic funeral, her fans came out and it was reported that there was over a 100, 000 of them. Her work is still enjoyed and listened to around the world. Her songs have featured in many films and many films have been produced about her.
When I first read about her last year, my eyes filled up. I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. I often wonder where people get the strength to carry on. It must be a flicker of light that stills burns inside that holds on.
Edith was reported as saying that although we lose loved ones, death is never the end and in fact a new beginning and one day we will all be reunited with the ones we love.
God bless Edith xx