Saturday, July 29, 2023





EDITH PIAF.....(1915-1963)

You can't think of France without the Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa held in the Louvre museum, baguettes, patisserie and Édith Piaf’s signature song, ‘La Vie En Rose’. This song is well-known all around the world.

During my recent tour of France, I also visited Père Lachaise cemetery, the final resting place of some legends in the fields of art, literature, and music including the renowned French singer, songwriter, actor and performer Edith Piaf. Piaf's expressive interpretations of the *chanson, or the French ballad, made her internationally famous. In France, she continues to be revered as a national treasure.

Édith Giovanna Gassion, best known as Édith Piaf is widely regarded as France's greatest popular singer and one of the most celebrated performers of the 20th century. Her songs resonate, and her voice still captivates. To the French masses, she is what Lata Mangeshkar is to the Indians. Written by Piaf in 1945 and released in 1947, her song,' La Vie en Rose' is popular as ever even after 76 years. The Hindi version of this song," Kaisi Paheli Zindagani " is also quite popular. Her other songs that earned her worldwide popularity are, Hymne à l'amour" (1949), "Milord" (1959) and "Non, je ne regrette rien" (1960).

The famed Paris Olympia concert hall is where Piaf achieved lasting fame, giving several series of concerts at the hall between January 1955 and October 1962. Excerpts from five of these concerts (1955, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962) were issued on record and CD and have never been out of print. In April 1963, Piaf recorded her last song, "L'homme de Berlin".Her music and voice transcend language and time, and will live on for many decades to come.

Piaf was a Parisian local herself. After a tumultuous childhood, she rose to stardom and went on to be one of the most important singers, songwriters, cabaret performers and actresses of all time. She was dubbed "La Môme Piaf" - Paris slang meaning "The Little Sparrow'. She had a difficult childhood. Born in a slum, her mother, the coffeehouse singer Annetta Jacqueline Gassion, was not very passionate about bringing up her daughter, so Édith Piaf lived with her grandmother, who nearly let her starve to death. From the age of three to seven, Édith was allegedly blind, suffering from an eye condition, most likely keratitis or iritis; and from eight to fourteen she was allegedly deaf. According to one of Piaf's biographies, she recovered her sight in what is known as a "miracle", after her grandmother's prostitutes pooled money to send her on a pilgrimage honouring Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. Her father had brought her to live with his  mother, who ran a brothel in Bernay - not a particularly favourable environment for a young girl. She was often beaten by her alcoholic father who forced her to join him in his street acrobatic performances. After a childhood of violence and neglect, Édith Piaf found her way as a street singer. Leaving her father at age 15, she earned her livelihood by singing in Paris. Passing by as she sang, the cabaret owner Louis Leplée noticed her voice and hired her to work at his Gerny's. Leplée gave her the stage name Piaf.

Édith is widely known around the world for her emotional ballads that touch on love, life, and loss. She also starred in a few films. Her track, “La Vie en Rose” made entry into The Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. A few biographical films have been produced, the most famous being Olivier Dahan’s “La Vie en Rose” (2007), for which actress Marion Cotillard won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Piaf.

Piaf, living through the hurts and abandonments of her early life, had high-profile romances with many of her male associates and some of the biggest celebrities in France. Two marriages and some failed love affairs brought only unhappiness in her personal life. Although she was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris, citing Piaf’s irreligious lifestyle, her funeral procession drew 100000 mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than forty thousand fans. *Charles Aznavour recalled that Piaf's funeral procession was the only time since the end of World War II that he saw Parisian traffic come to a complete stop.

In 1951 she was involved in a car accident and after that had difficulty breaking a serious morphine addiction. Addicted to alcohol, She died at the age of 47 from liver cancer. She died in Plascassier, near the French Riviera city of Nice, on October 10, 1963, all too young at the age of 47. Her last words were "Every damn thing you do in this life, you have to pay for'.

She is buried next to her daughter Marcelle in Père Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris, where her grave is among the most visited. The Musée Édith Piaf is a private museum dedicated to singer Édith Piaf located in the 11th arrondissement at 5, rue Crespin du Gast, Paris, France. Admission to this museum is free.

I conclude this write-up on Edith PIAF with a couplet of Urdu poet Jaun Elia:-

" meri taareef kare ya mujhe bad-naam kare

jis ne jo baat bhī karni hai sar-e-aam kare "

(Whether one compliments me, or acts as my critic,

Whoever wants to do anything should do it publicly.)

(Avtar Mota )



Very often "chansons" refers to the French songs sung in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. People who sang these chansons were called "chansonniers". They had various forms, including ballade, rondeau and virelai. Some composers at the time liked to set popular poetry to music.


The singer, songwriter and actor Charles Aznavour, who died aged 94, was one of France’s best-loved entertainers who wrote 800 songs. He was as important a composer and songwriter as he was a singer – and he could be a great actor even without singing a note on screen. Aznavour served as an actor and composer/music arranger for many hit films. Dubbed the "Frank Sinatra of France" and singing in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese), his touring would include sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall (1964) and London's Albert Hall (1967).

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