Born into poverty in Paris as Edith Giovanna Gassion, her mother abandoned her at two months of age, leaving her in the "care" of her alcoholic maternal grandparents. Her father, a noted acrobat, sent his daughter to live with his mother, who was a madam in a Normandy brothel, while he went to war; he reclaimed her when he returned from the war and took her with him on his travels- because of this, she received very little formal education.
Edith allegedly lost her sight for a short time between ages 3 and 7, possibly due to an infection.
At 15, Edith left him to return to Paris, where she earned a living singing in the streets and in seedy cabarets. As luck had it, a proprieter spotted her and launched her career, billing her as La Mome Piaf (Parisian slang for "The Little Sparrow," from which she took her stage name); the name suited her tiny, frail figure. With a voice that wrung out every last drop of emotion, the waif with the heartbreaking voice took France by storm.
As successful as her career, Edith, eager to find love, went through a string of lovers, failing to find the right one. Her only child, Marcelle, died in infancy, and the great love of her life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, was killed in a plane crash. Edith herself was in three car crashes. Edith took to drugs and alcohol to ease her suffering. She would also lose almost all of her fortune and was virtually penniless when she died.
The melancholy, anguished songs that she sung (many of which she composed) reflected many of her losses. Her most well known songs were La Vie en Rose; Milord; Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien; Mon Legionnaire; L'Accordioniste; Mon Dieu; and L'Hymne A L'Amour.
The stage name of French caberet singer Edith Piaf, born in Paris, in 1915, as Edith Giovanna Gassion. Died 1963, age 47. Known for her tiny form, difficult life, and haunting singing style.
Edith's bright, successful professional life was a stark contrast to her miserable, chaotic personal life; she unsuccessfully searched for the love of her life, going through enough men to fill a phone book.
Her only child died in infancy, and she took to drugs and alcohol to escape her anguish and distress.
The great love of her life, French boxer, Marcel Cerdan, was killed in a plane crash.
The tragedies that she suffered were reflected in the sad, yearning ballads that she sang, a number of which she composed. La Vie en Rose was her most famous piece, as well as Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.