Edith Piaf was a French singer with a fantastically unconventional life. Her parents had left her in the care of her grandmother, who worked as a cook in a brothel. At the age of seven, her father returned and she lived her life out on the streets, passing a hat to collect money as her father performed acrobatics. They often slept out in the streets or in parks. At the age of ten, her father fell ill and Edith began singing on street corners to make money. Passers-by took note of her strong voice, and she made more money by singing than her father had with his acrobatics.
The teenaged Edith would explore the streets with her friends, singing for meals. She fell in love and had torrid affairs, one with a delivery boy who bore her a child that died at the age of two from meningitis, another with a leader of a prostitution group.
It was not until the age of twenty that Louis Leplee, a club owner, discovered this intense new talent. He named her Piaf, “sparrow”, and mentored her in stage confidence, manners, and singing for an audience. The audience received her well, and Piaf began to record albums.
Alas, this breakthrough that would take her out of poverty and into the company of renowned entertainment personalities, did not necessarily mean the end of her suffering. Leplee, her beloved mentor who had discovered and named her, was brutally murdered by an organized crime syndicate—and Piaf was the prime suspect in the investigation until she was acquitted.
Piaf developed several substance addictions, particularly to alcohol and morphine. She continued to engage in torrid affairs, it is rumored with lovers both male and female.
She died of liver cancer at the age of forty-seven. While the archbishop of Paris denied her a funeral mass due to her immoral lifestyle, thousands of fans attended her burial. Edit Piaf has since become a national treasure, and a global icon.