Édith Piaf’s life was anything but rosy. Born in a Parisian slum, she was abandoned by her mother and lived for awhile in a brothel run by her grandmother. As a teenager she sang on the streets for money. She was addicted to alcohol and drugs for much of her life, and her later years were marred by chronic pain. Through it all, Piaf managed to hold onto a basically optimistic view of life. She sang with a lyrical abandon that seemed to transcend the pain and sorrow of living.
On April 3, 1954 Piaf was the guest of honor on the French TV show La Joie de Vivre. She was 38 years old but looked much older. She had recently undergone a grueling series of “aversion therapy” treatments for alcoholism, and was by that time in the habit of taking morphine before going onstage. Cortisone treatments for arthritis made the usually wire-thin singer look puffy. But when Piaf launches into her signature song, “La Vie en Rose” (see above), all of that is left behind.
Nine years after this performance, when Piaf died, her friend Jean Cocteau said of her: “Like all those who live on courage, she didn’t think about death–she defied it. Only her voice remains, that splendid voice like black velvet.”
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Edith Piaf was given a blessing with her singing voice. She was an amazing person. From the dregs of society she became the icon of France I adore her music and I enjoy reading as much as I can on her life.
Hear voice was one of kind perhaps never to equaled in a French love song.
I’ve heard other singers try to cover this. Some do a pretty good job, but it’s a deceptively simple song and you have to have lived it to sing it.
The funniest however are those without a real command of French who try to sing it, particularly Americans; the accent and timing of the language, the subtle emphasis is missing and it works against them. It comes out as Je vois l’avion rose – I see the pink airplane.
I am an Army Brat. I was living in a small farming village with my family. At the age of seven or eight my Dad would play his radio a lot when we drove around the French countryside, and I recall Ms. Piaf coming on the radio singing songs. She was very different and I never forgot her unusual yet fascinating style of vocalizing. I also remember riding on the Carousel and hearing her music blasting over the public address system as I desperately reached out to pull the ring from the monkey’s nose. WHAT A BLAST FROM THE PAST, AND A FOND MEMORY. Thank you Madamoisel!