Glossary entry for
Piaf, Edith

Edith Piaf (1915-1962) was born Edith Giovanna Gassion in the Belleville section of Paris Her early years were spent in abject poverty. Abandoned by her mother, a failed singer, when she was only a few months old, Piaf spent her early childhood in the care first of her aunt, and then of her paternal grandmother, a cook and housekeeper in a brothel in Bernay.

She started her singing career on the streets of Paris, singing for pennies. It was impressario Louis Leplee who changed her name to "Piaf" (Parisian slang for "sparrow") and suggested for her performances the simple black dress that was to become her hallmark. The rest, as they rightly say, is history.

Within two years she was acclaimed as one of France's truly great music-hall performers and although her personal life was one of continued tragedy and illness, her music has lived on.

The phrase "no regredior" in Van's "Saint Dominic's Preview" may be a reference to Piaf's hallmark song "Je Ne Regrette Rien" ("I Regret Nothing"). One list member has also suggested that "no regredior" is church Latin ("non regredior", meaning "I cannot go back") from cathedral Notre Dame, slightly misheard by Van.

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