Edith Piaf: The Little Sparrow with No Regrets

Updated on February 22, 2018
CatherineGiordano profile image

I'm an author of a book of essays. My poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

Edith Piaf

Édith Piaf made many albums with Columbia Records.
Édith Piaf made many albums with Columbia Records. | Source

Biographical Facts

Édith Piaf was petite in stature, but she sang like a giant. She lived life fiercely and suffered many tragedies in her too-short life, but she defiantly declared that she had "no regrets."

Piaf, who was nicknamed the “Little Sparrow” (La Môme Piaf ) was a famous French singer in the 1940’s. She earned this nickname because of her small statue (4' 8") and her nervousness.

Piaf was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris on Decmber 19, 1915. Édith’s father, Louis-Alphonse Gassion, was a street acrobat. Her mother, Annetta Giovanna Maillard, was an Italian cafe singer, who performed under the name “Line Marsa.”

Edith gave birth to a daughter at the age of 17. She did not marry the father. Her child, named Marcelle, died at the age of 2 from meningitis. .

Piaf lived life with a flamboyant enthusiasm, just as she sang. She was notorious for her romances with married men, her male associates, and a number of the biggest celebrities in France. She became addicted to alcohol and morphine after a serious car accident in 1951.

She married twice. Her first marriage was in 1952 to singer Jacques Pills., They were divorced four years later in 1957. She married Théo Sarapo, a Greek hairdresser and performer, who was 20 years her junior, in 1962. Her second marriage lasted until her death.

Édith Piaf died of cancer at the age of 47 on October 10, 1963. Her funeral procession drew thousands of mourners, bringing traffic in Paris to a standstill.

I want to make people cry even when they don't understand my words.

— Edith Piaf

Career

In 1935, Édith Piaf began her career in the Pigalle area of Paris. She was discovered and promoted by nightclub owner, Louie Leplée. She released her first record later that same year. She went on to become one of the most popular concert performers of her time, achieving international fame, and even appearing on the Ed Sullivan show eight times. Piaf appeared in several films and performed in a stage play. Piaf made hundreds of record albums.

Piaf is most famous for her songs, La Vie en Rose, Padam…Padam, and Je, Ne Regrette Rien.

The story of Piaf's life is told in over a dozen films and plays.The most recent film was La Vie en Rose in 2007. Piaf was portrayed by Marion Cotillard who won an Best Actress Academy award for her performance in the film.

There are also books about Piaf, including her own autobiography.

Singing is a way of escaping. It's another world. I'm no longer on earth.

— Edith Piaf

Marion Cotillard Won a Best Actress Oscar for Her Portrayal of Edith Piaf.

La Vie en Rose (Extended Version)
La Vie en Rose (Extended Version)

If the success of a movie is measured by how long the movie "stays with you," this is among the most successful movies ever. I found it unforgettable. it affected me deeply.

 

Money? How did I lose it? I never did lose it. I just never knew where it went.

— Edith Piaf

Bust of Edith Piaf in Celebrity Alley in Kielce (Poland)

A bust of Edith Piaf can be found in a park in Poland.
A bust of Edith Piaf can be found in a park in Poland. | Source

A Poem in Tribute to Edith Piaf

I was so moved by the story of Edith Piaf's life after seeing the movie, La Vie en Rose, I wrote a poem about her.

No Regrets

Édith Piaf, called by all, “The Little Sparrow,”

was petite in stature,

but sang like a giant,

gaining fame with her songs of life, love, and sorrow.

Her songs blasted into the air, as if some fuse,

being lit, had shot them from an iron cannon.

and so she became, and so she ever will be,

France’s most famous and most beloved chanteuse.


One favorite song that she always liked to sing

was the one she called, “Non,

Je ne regette rien,

which in English translates as “I regret nothing.”

She sang it with élan, her soprano voice strong,

filling the room and ringing out with conviction.

She shouted it out as if daring anyone

to challenge her on this or call her choices wrong.


It’s true, during her life she enjoyed great success,

but is it possible

that she had no regrets

or was her song meant to hide unhappiness?

Perhaps this was just her way of sticking her thumb

into the unblinking unthinking eye of life,

refusing to indulge in any soul-searching,

despite living in a tumultuous maelstrom.


Édith was born to a poor unwed teenaged girl;

raised by her grandmother—

madame of a brothel—

so young, and already her life was in turmoil.

As a child, she endured four years of sightlessness

caused by a severe inflammation of the eyes.

She must have believed she would never see again,

until the prostitutes’ prayers ended her blindness.


She married at seventeen and had a daughter;

the girl died at age two.

Then two more marriages,

the third husband, a man much younger than her.

Her love life became a hideous découpage

so many lovers, some mobsters and married men.

These affairs all tended to end unhappily

falling victim to her acts of self-sabotage.


How did she survive the Nazi occupation—

a collaborator,

or resistance fighter,

or were both used in strategic combination?

She took her solace in drink, a lifelong problem;

She suffered injuries in two car accidents.

So many problems, so many sad maladies,

and then morphine addiction was added to them.


Her life often spinning wildly out of control;

it was inner power

holding her together.

She could never let regret seep into her soul;

it would have felled her, as surely as a strong blow,

or breathing a poisonous gas into her lungs.

Just one whiff of regret, and this frail little bird

would become “Edith Piaf, The Broken Sparrow.”


Isn’t it clear what Piaf was trying to say?

Why waste time with regret?

Why waste time looking back?

Dwell on yesterday’s mistakes and you lose today.

The past is the past; not a thing can be undone!

You must accept yourself and respect past choices!

Forget “what ifs” and “if onlys,” just love your life,

and live it fully—this life is your only one.


There are many stops along our life’s journey,

and all your rued choices

are just so much litter—

leave it behind as you march on with joie de vie.

Remember, getting to the good takes many tries.

So like Candide, let us embrace the thought that frees:

We must repeat to ourselves, “All is for the best,

and this is the best of all my possible lives.”

People say I could sing the phone book and make it sound good.

— Edith Piaf

Édith Piaf sings "No Regrets" (with lyrics)

Please vote in this poll.

Are you a fan of Edith Piaf?

See results

A photo of Edit Piaf

Edith Piaf performing in Rotterdam, Holland.
Edith Piaf performing in Rotterdam, Holland. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Catherine Giordano

    What do you think about the poem or about Edith Piaf?

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      • CatherineGiordano profile image
        Author

        Catherine Giordano 11 months ago from Orlando Florida

        Patricia: Thanks so much for your comment. Edith Piaf just resonates with me. It's so nice to meet someone who feels the same way.

      • profile image

        Patricia 11 months ago

        First heard of her in my high school French class. When our instructor played her album, I fell in love -- Je ne regrette rien.

      • CatherineGiordano profile image
        Author

        Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Delores. Thank you for your comment. I agree with you. I love to hear the "old standards." Edith Piaf was a rare talent.

      • Dolores Monet profile image

        Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

        I've loved Edith Piaf ever since I saw her on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was a kid. I miss those kinds of shows. Variety shows introduced people to entertainers that they may never normally have seen or heard. Today, we usually find the type of music we want to hear, music we already know. The Ed Sullivan Show introduced silly little girls who preferred the Beatles etc. to something different and enlightened our lives forever.

      • CatherineGiordano profile image
        Author

        Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Thanks for your votes. I always liked her music, but I didn't know much about her until I saw "La Vie en Rose." If you see it, be prepared to cry your eyes out. I did.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

        I had not known much about her, although I had heard of her. Thank you for enlightening me. Beautifully done. Voted up and more.

      • CatherineGiordano profile image
        Author

        Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

        Thank you for your comment and your vote. Like you I always liked her singing, but I did not know much about her life.

      • lions44 profile image

        CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

        Nice job. While I had heard of Piaf, I did not know much about her. Voted up.

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