Édith Piaf’s Moving Performance of ‘La Vie en Rose’ on French Television (1954)

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.”

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in Feb­ru­ary 2013.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Iggy Pop Sings Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” in an Art­ful­ly Ani­mat­ed Video

Serge Gains­bourg & Brigitte Bar­dot Per­form Out­law-Inspired Love Song, ‘Bon­nie and Clyde’ (1968)

French Cou­ple Sings an Aching­ly Charm­ing Ver­sion of VU’s “Femme Fatale”

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.