Édith Piaf – La Voix

Day 226 of Colourisation Project – December 19

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born in Paris on this day, December 19, 1915, Édith Giovanna Gassion, better known as Édith Piaf, ‘the Sparrow’ is universally regarded as France’s greatest popular singer. Nicknamed La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow), she was only 147 cm tall (4′ 10″).

Édith Piaf

Photo by Gaston Paris/Collection Roger Viollet – Édith Piaf 1950 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Named Édith after the World War I British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping French soldiers escape from German captivity, Piaf possessed a powerful and captivating singing voice that belied her diminutive frame; a voice that today transcends language and time.

Still revered as a cultural and musical icon decades after her death, Piaf’s music was mainly autobiographical with recurring themes of love, loss and sorrow. Her velvety vibrato makes her music instantly recognisable. Among her most famous songs and ballads are La Vie en Rose (1946), Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (1960), Hymne à l’amour (1949), Milord (1959), La Foule (1957), l’Accordéoniste (1955), and Padam … Padam … (1951).

Piaf rose to become an international sensation overcoming personal adversity and tragedy in her short life. Abandoned by her mother as a small child, she went to live in the milieu of her maternal grandmother’s brothel. At 14 she was singing on the streets with her father, a street acrobat…and the rest is history.  A lot of it true and a lot of it fabricated to create the cult that was Édith Piaf. Go google and decide for yourself.

Years of alcohol and painkillers took their toll on her health and in 1963 Édith Piaf succumbed to liver cancer at Plascassier, on the French Riviera. She was only 47. She was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, but her funeral procession drew tens of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris whilst the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than 100,000 fans.

Though her life was cut short, her legacy continues to live on in her music.  In 1998 La Vie en Rose was entered into The Grammy Hall of Fame.

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Today I leave you with Édith Piaf performing one of her greatest hits, Milord on the Ed Sullivan Show (1959) in which she gives the song an English introduction. A gem of a video. Enjoy!

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 “Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for.”  –  Édith Piaf’s last words.

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