Edith Piaf spent most of her life living in the suburbs of
Paris. She entertained her audiences in many European cities but never
officially in the UK ! Her greatest success abroad was most definitely in the
The first two years of her life were spent in the Menilmontant area
of the city; allegedly she was born under a street lamp outside number 72 rue
de Belleville on a policeman's cloak.
72, rue de Bellville
Her father went off to the war shortly after her
birth and returned two years later to find a dirty, ill child who had been in
the 'care' of her alcoholic maternal grandparents for most of that time. He
took Edith to stay with his own mother - a cook in a Normandy brothel, where
she remained until the age of six. They then spent several years travelling
around France entertaining people with their acrobatic side-show until they
returned to Paris, renting a room at a hotel on the Rue de Belleville not far
from her birthplace.
115, Rue de Belleville
At the age of fifteen, Edith met Simone Berteaut;
possibly her half-sister, definitely a companion for most of her life, and
between them toured the streets singing and earning money for themselves for
the first time. With the money Edith also earned as part of an acrobatic trio
Edith and Simone (Mômone) were able to rent a room at the Hôtel de
l'Avenir on Rue Orfila.
In 1932 she met and fell in love with Louis
Dupont - within a very short time he moved into their small room; the three of
them lived together despite Louis and Mômone's dislike for each other.
Louis was never happy with the idea of Edith roaming the streets and
continually persuaded her to take jobs he found for her. She resisted whenever
possible however until she became pregnant and worked for a short while making
wreaths in a factory.
Baby Marcelle was born in the Hôpital Tenon
in February 1933. Edith had little maternal instinct nor domestic ability and
rapidly returned to street singing until the Summer of 1933 when she opened at
Juan -les-Pins, Rue Pigalle. Louis was incensed - they quarrelled and Edith
left taking Mômone and Marcelle. The three of them stayed at the
Hôtel Au Clair de Lune, Rue André-Antoine. Marcelle was often left
alone in the room whilst Edith and Mômone were out on the streets or at
the club singing.
During this time Edith encountered a young man by the
name of Albert who was a pimp for several prostitutes and even tried to
persuade Edith to work for him. She refused, so he demanded large proportions
of her money earned by singing and this continued until one of her friends, a
girl named Nadia, forced into working for Albert, killed herself. On learning
the relationship was over Albert attempted to shoot Edith; luckily without
In August 1935 Louis Dupont surprisingly contacted Edith.
Marcelle; who at some point Louis had collected to care for himself, was
gravely ill in hospital suffering from meningitis. Edith rushed to the
Hôpital Tenon - Marcelle died just over a week later.