December 19, 1915 – Edith Piaf born

December 19, 1915  – Edith Piaf born

Internationally renowned French singer Edith Piaf is born on this day in Paris in 1915. Known for her earthy, melancholy cabaret songs, Piaf had an extremely difficult childhood. Her mother was a teenage drug addict and her father, a street acrobat twice her mother’s age, was away fighting in World War I until Edith was two. Edith’s mother abandoned the family when Edith was still a toddler, and Edith was raised by her paternal grandmother, a cook at a bordello in Normandy. While still a child, Edith lost her vision for four years, but it mysteriously returned after a visit to a shrine. As a teenager, Edith began performing as a singer with her father. The pair traveled Europe, but hard times continued: In 1934 Edith gave birth to a beloved daughter, who later died of meningitis. Her father was murdered in 1935. Only 20, Edith supported herself with street singing and prostitution until a nightclub owner discovered her, dubbing her “la mome piaf” (“the waif sparrow”). Edith adopted the last name as her own. Her hard life gave a unique edge to her songs about sex, love, drugs, and death. She began performing on the radio in 1936 and within a decade she was one of France’s best-loved singers. She made the first of 10 U.S. tours in 1947 and topped the U.S. charts in 1959 with “The Three Bells.” In addition to her signature song, “La Vie en Rose,” Piaf’s other well-known works include “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” “What Can I Do?,” and “I’ll Remember Today.” Piaf died in 1963.