50 years gone, but still loved: Edith Piaf fans flock to Paris for memorial

The  congregation at the service included busloads of Japanese tourists

Paris

Fifty years after the death of Edith Piaf, the “Little Sparrow,” crowds packed into a church in a working-class district of Paris to mark the enduring legacy of the French singer.

The congregation at the memorial service in Belleville included busloads of Japanese tourists, bearing witness to the singing legend’s global appeal.

“She’s the only French singer I’ve ever heard of,” said Italian student Antonello Pistritto, at the St Jean-Baptiste de Belleville church, where Piaf was baptised Edith Giovanna Gassion in 1917.

Belleville, with its bustling Chinese community, has been transformed since Piaf was raised in the gritty neighbourhood. After being taken on tour to the provinces by her contortionist father, she moved to Montmartre, where she eked out a living from singing on street corners before being discovered by cabaret owner Louis Leplée in 1935.

Her songs of love and pain are haunting, from “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and “La Vie en Rose” to “Milord” and “L’Accordéoniste”. The surviving footage of her concerts shows her passionate delivery, standing in her trademark black dress. Among her many lovers was the Yves Montand, the actor.

But Piaf was a tragic figure who was broken by the plane crash death of her great love, the (married) French boxing champion Marcel Cerdan as he was on his way to see her triumph in New York.

Her only child, a daughter born when she was 17, died from meningitis aged two. When Piaf succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 47, her health had already been destroyed by her addiction to alcohol and morphine, the drugs having been prescribed after a car crash in 1951.

Piaf has inspired an industry of books and films since her death. Marion Cotillard starred in a moving 2007 bio-pic, distributed in the UK under the title of Piaf’s best-loved song, “La Vie en Rose”.

French people of all ages rose to the challenge of singing their favourite Piaf number at the foot of her statue.

The 50th anniversary of her death is being marked by four days of celebrations. The memorial service opened with a chant based on the words of St Thérèse of Lisieux, to whom Piaf was devoted. The festival includes a walking tour, a treasure hunt and concerts.

Piaf is buried in nearby Père Lachaise cemetery.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee