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 and singer 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.
On 6 April 1936, Leplée was murdered. Piaf was questioned and accused as an accessory, but acquitted. Leplée had been killed by mobsters with previous ties to Piaf.
A barrage of negative media attention now threatened her career.To rehabilitate her image, she recruited Raymond Asso, with whom she would become romantically involved.
He changed her stage name to “Édith Piaf”, barred undesirable acquaintances from seeing her, and commissioned Monnot to write songs that reflected or alluded to Piaf’s previous life on the streets.
In 1940, Piaf co-starred in Jean Cocteau’s successful one-act play Le Bel Indifférent.The German occupation of Paris didn’t stop her career, to the contrary, she began forming friendships with prominent people, including Chevalier and poet Jacques Bourgeat.
She wrote the lyrics of many of her songs and collaborated with composers on the tunes. Spring 1944 saw the first cooperation and a love affair with Yves Montand in the Moulin Rouge.
In 1947, she wrote the lyrics to the song “Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai ?” (music by Henri Betti) for Yves Montand. Within a year, he became one of the most famous singers in France. She broke off their relationship when he had become almost as popular as she was.
During this time, she was in great demand and very successful in Paris as France’s most popular entertainer.After the war, she became known internationally touring Europe, the United States, and South America. In Paris, she gave Atahualpa Yupanqui (Héctor Roberto Chavero) – a central figure in the Argentine folk music tradition – the opportunity to share the scene, making his debut in July 1950.
She helped launch the career of Charles Aznavour in the early 1950s, taking him on tour with her in France and the United States and recording some of his songs.At first she met with little success with U.S. audiences, who regarded her as downcast.
After a glowing 1947 review in the New York Herald Tribune by the influential New York critic Virgil Thompson, himself a contributor to international avant garde culture, however, her popularity grew to the point where she eventually appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show eight times and at Carnegie Hall twice (1956 and 1957).
Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en rose” was written in 1945 and was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.
Bruno Coquatrix’s famous Paris Olympia music hall is where Piaf achieved lasting fame, giving several series of concerts at the hall, the most famous venue in Paris, 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. The 1961 concerts, promised by Piaf in an effort to save the venue from bankruptcy, debuted her song “Non, je ne regrette rien”.In April 1963, Piaf recorded her last song, “L’Homme de Berlin”.
At age 17 Piaf had a daughter, Marcelle, who died aged two. Piaf neither wanted nor had other children.
The love of Piaf’s life, the married boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash in October 1949, while flying from Paris to New York City to meet her. Cerdan’s Air France flight, on a Lockheed Constellation, crashed in the Azores, killing everyone on board, including noted violinist Ginette Neveu. Piaf and Cerdan’s affair made international headlines as Cerdan was the former middleweight world champion and a legend in France in his own right.
In 1951, Piaf was seriously injured in a car crash along with Charles Aznavour, breaking her arm and two ribs, and thereafter had serious difficulties arising from morphine and alcohol addictions.Two more near-fatal car crashes exacerbated the situation.Jacques Pills, a singer, took her into rehabilitation on three different occasions to no avail.
Piaf married Jacques Pills (real name René Ducos), her first husband, in 1952 (her matron of honour was Marlene Dietrich) and divorced him in 1957. In 1962, she wed Théo Sarapo (Theophanis Lamboukas), a Greek hairdresser-turned-singer and actor who was 20 years her junior. The couple sang together in some of her last engagements.
Piaf lived in Belleville, Paris, with her parents from 1915 to 1934. From 1934 to 1941, she lived at 45 rue de Chézy in Neuilly-sur-Seine; she lived alone from 1941 to 1952 and with Jacques Pills from 1952 to 1956. She continued to live there alone from 1956 to 1959. In her final years she lived at 23 rue Édouard Nortier in Neuilly-sur-Seine – alone from 1959 to 1962 and with Théo Sarapo from 1962 until her death in 1963.
In popular culture
Piaf’s work and name resound in popular culture and music today.
Numerous songs by Piaf are used in films and other media. Films such as Saving Private Ryan, Inception, Bull Durham, La Haine, The Dreamers and the animated film, Madagascar 3 and the Egyptian movie The Yacoubian Building all have Piaf’s songs in them.
Love Me If You Dare pays tribute to her song “La Vie en rose” by including various versions of the song in its soundtrack.
Musicians have paid tribute to her by covering her songs, for instance “Johnny, tu n’es pas un ange” was covered by Vaya Con Dios on their debut album.
One of the most prominent uses of her songs occurred in the 2010 film, Inception; “Non, je ne regrette rien” was used as a motif in the narrative element of the film.
That song was also used in a 2009 ad campaign by British optometrist chain Specsavers, which used the song and footage from the music video.
False subtitling was used to make it seem that Piaf singing about how she wishes she used the deals on glasses there. In 2015, Cadillac released a TV spot featuring “Non, je ne regrette rien” with several entrepreneurs and celebrities such as Steve Wozniak and Richard Linklater. La Vie En Rose was also used in the 2013 BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea game.
In the television show Pretty Little Liars, the character Mona Vanderwaal is a Francophile who listens to Piaf on multiple occasions. In 2016, the band Tiger Lillies released an album called Madame Piaf, Songs from the Gutter, inspired by Piaf’s life.
A cover of her song, La Foule sung by Izzy Bizu was used as BBC Sport’s theme song for their coverage of UEFA Euro 2016.
Madonna performed the song “La Vie en rose” during the cabaret segment of her Rebel Heart Tour.
Rock band Sparks debuted new song “Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)” at the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival on March 24, 2017, also to be released on Hippopotamus (album).
Dove chocolate created a commercial in 2016 featuring “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien” and a heart-wrenching montage of a woman’s life
La garçonne (1936), Jean de Limur
Montmartre-sur-Seine (1941), Georges Lacombe
Star Without Light (1946), Marcel Blistène
Neuf garçons, un cœur (fr) (1947), Georges Freedland
Paris Still Sings (1951), Pierre Montazel
Boum sur Paris (1953), Maurice de Canonge
Si Versailles m’était conté (1954), Sacha Guitry
French Cancan (1954), Jean Renoir
Música de Siempre (1958), sang “La vida en rosa”, the Spanish version of “La Vie en rose”.
Les Amants de demain (1959), Marcel Blistène
Le Bel indifférent (fr) (1940), Jean Cocteau
The following titles are compilations of Piaf’s songs, and not reissues of the titles released while Piaf was active.
Edith Piaf: Edith Piaf (Music For Pleasure MFP 1396) 1961
Ses Plus Belles Chansons (Contour 6870505) 1969
The Voice of the Sparrow: The Very Best of Édith Piaf, original release date: June 1991
Édith Piaf: 30th Anniversaire, original release date: 5 April 1994
Édith Piaf: Her Greatest Recordings 1935–1943, original release date: 15 July 1995
The Early Years: 1938–1945, Vol. 3, original release date: 15 October 1996
Hymn to Love: All Her Greatest Songs in English, original release date: 4 November 1996
Gold Collection, original release date: 9 January 1998
The Rare Piaf 1950–1962 (28 April 1998)
La Vie en rose, original release date: 26 January 1999
Montmartre Sur Seine (soundtrack import), original release date: 19 September 2000
Éternelle: The Best Of (29 January 2002)
Love and Passion (boxed set), original release date: 8 April 2002
The Very Best of Édith Piaf (import), original release date: 29 October 2002
75 Chansons (Box set/import), original release date: 22 September 2005
48 Titres Originaux (import), (09/01/2006)
Édith Piaf: L’Intégrale/Complete 20 CD/413 Chansons, original release date: 27 February 2007
Édith Piaf: The Absolutely Essential 3 CD Collection/Proper Records UK, original release date: 31 May 2011
Édith Piaf: A Passionate Life (24 May 2004)
Édith Piaf: Eternal Hymn (Éternelle, l’hymne à la môme, PAL, Region 2, import)
Piaf: Her Story, Her Songs (June 2006)
Piaf: La Môme (2007)
La Vie en rose (biopic, 2008)
Édith Piaf: The Perfect Concert and Piaf: The Documentary (February 2009)
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