Édith Piaf (1915–1963) was one of France’s best loved singers and a national icon. Her music reflected her tragic life, with her speciality being the poignant ballad such as ‘La vie en rose’, ‘Hymne à l’amour’, ‘Milord’, and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’.
She was discovered by Louis Leplée who both persuaded her to sing, despite her extreme nervousness, and gave her the nickname which became her stage name, ‘La Môme Piaf’ (the little sparrow). Not long afterwards, Leplée was murdered and Piaf was accused of being an accessory but was acquitted.
During the war she worked for the Resistance. Piaf was married twice but the great love of her life was the boxer Marcel Cerdan who died in 1949.
She died of cancer in 1963, aged forty-seven, and was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris. She was forbidden a Mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris (because of her lifestyle) but her funeral procession drew hundreds of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris: Charles Aznavour recalled that Piaf’s funeral procession was the only time, since the end of World War II, that Parisian traffic came to a complete stop.