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Photo source: Wikimedia

Top 10 Interesting Facts about Edith Piaf


Edith Piaf is one of the most internationally recognized French female singers. Her music was mostly about love, loss, and sorrow, her clear and soft voice could captivate even those who didn’t understand the lyrics.

Piaf was born on December 19, 1915, in Belleville, Paris at the height of the first world war. Her mother abandoned her on the streets of Paris after her birth.

Despite going through a very difficult life in her early childhood, Edith went ahead to become the greatest French musician of all time.

Here are the top 10 interesting facts about her.

1. Edith Piaf came from a Family of Artists


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Edith was born into a family of famous artists, her father Louis Alphonse Gassion was himself an entertainer, as a circus performer and theatre actor.

Louis Alphonse Gassion began his career in the circus with the ‘Ciotti’ circus and became a contortionist. At first, he performed with his family, before he started performing on his own.

Her mother, Annetta Giovanna Maillard was a singer, circus performer, and equestrian. 

Annetta and Louis were divorced on 4 June 1929, after she had become a drunk and a drug addict.

2. Edith Piaf was Raised in a Brothel

photo by Trisku from Wikimedia

Edith Piaf’s mother abandoned her at birth, and she lived for a short time with her maternal grandmother who ran a brothel in Normandy. There, prostitutes helped look after her.

She lived with six prostitutes who permanently worked in the brothel; others would join in during the busy days.

In later years Edith said she considered them as members of her family, Edith believed her weakness for men came from mixing with prostitutes in her grandmother’s brothel.

3. Edith Piaf became Blind at the Age of 3

At the age of three years, Piaf become blind as a result of meningitis complications but recovered her sight four years later.

According to one of her biographers, Edith’s recovery was miraculous; she regained her sight after prostitutes working in her grandmother’s brothel pooled money and accompanied her on a pilgrimage to honor Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. 

4. Edith Piaf Started her Career on the Streets

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photo by Chabe01 from Wikimedia

After Edith recovered from blindness she started singing on the streets to earn a living. Although it was illegal to perform on the streets for money in France at that time, she made friends with the city police who allowed her to sing and earn some money.

In 1929, at age 14, her father took her to join him in his acrobatic street performances all over France, where she first began to sing in public.

Piaf later met Simone “Mômone” Berteaut who was her half-sister, and she became her companion for most of her life. Together they toured the streets singing and earning money for themselves. 

5. Edith Piaf became a Mother at the Age of 17

In 1932, at the age of 17 Edith met and fell in love with Louis Dupont, they started living in a small room together with Piaf’s half-sister Momone. 

Like her mother, Piaf found it difficult to care for her child because she had very little knowledge of parenting. She immediately returned to street singing, until the summer of 1933, when she started performing at Juan-les-Pins, Rue Pigalle. 

She later left Lous Dupont following a bitter quarrel, taking her daughter and her half-sister away from the house they were sharing. Marcelle later died of meningitis at age two.

6. Edith Piaf’s Talent was Discovered by Louis Leplee

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Photo by Studio Harcourt from Wikimedia

A nightclub owner Louis Lepleef discovered  Edith Piaf in the streets of the Pigalle area.

Louis Leplee Le Gerny’s club was frequented by people of all classes in the area. and he succeeded in persuading her to abandon her street life and become a singer in his club.

With her short stature of only 142 centimeters in height, Louis Leplee nicknamed her “La Mome Piaf” a name she stuck with as her stage name until she died in 1963.

Leplée ran an intense publicity campaign leading up to her opening night, attracting the presence of many celebrities, including actor and singer Maurice Chevalier.

Her nightclub gigs led to her first two records produced that same year she joined the Le Gerny nightclub. 

7. Edith Piaf Performed for the German Soldiers during World War 2

Edith Piaf’s career and fame flourished during the German occupation of France in the early 1940s.

German officers and their French collaborators invited her to perform in some of the nightclubs and brothels reserved for them.

German officials invited and sponsored her concert tour to Berlin in 1942.

Piaf was very popular among Nazis, and she was able to go through the war in relative peace. 

8. Edith Piaf Toured the World with her Music

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Photo by Eric Koch for Anefo from Wikimedia

During the second war in the 1940s, Edith Piaf became very successful and the most popular entertainer in France. After the war, she became known internationally, touring Europe, the United States, and South America. 

After a favorable review of her music by the influential New York critic Virgil Thomson, her popularity grew in the United States. She appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show  eight times between 1956 and 1957

9. Edith Piaf Dated the World Boxing Champion

During one of her tours in the United States, she met and fell in love with French boxing world champion Marcel Cerdan. Their romantic relationship made headlines around the world.

Marcel Cerdan died in a plane crash in October 1949 while flying from Paris to New York City to meet her.

10. Edith Piaf was a Drug and Alcohol Addict

Like her mother, Edith struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, which greatly affected her personal and public life.

Years of alcohol and drug abuse took their toll on her health, she suffered rheumatoid arthritis and later insomnia.  her addictions were accelerated by the series of car accidents she was involved in.

she underwent a series of surgeries for a stomach ulcer in 1959, coupled with a deteriorating liver due to alcohol abuse. She died at age 47 on 10 October 1963.