The musical side of Paris is chanson of course. And speaking of chanson who else comes to mind if not Edith Piaf – the first lady of French song, who would be 99 years old today. Happy Birthday „Little Sparrow”!!
Edith Piaf’s birthday is shrouded in mystery. Legend has it that she was born on the pavement in front of Rue de Belleville 72. Though there is evidence that she was born in a hospital, I prefer the street version. It’s more dramatic and romantic at the same time. Abandoned by her mother, raised by prostitutes, she started her first artistic steps on the street. She joined her father in his acrobatic street performances and wandereed all over France. There she sang for the first time in public. In 1935, the singer was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by the nightclub owner Louis Leplee. And that is how Piaf’s career began.
How to celebrate the 99th birthday of the most famous French cabaret singer, who conquered the hearts of her listeners and became France’s national diva? How to celebrate it in Paris, the capital of chanson? I expected the number of events for this occasion would surpass my abilities. How wrong I was! I have been searching the Internet for a long time to find out but it seems there is no special event to celebrate Edith Piaf’s birthday. I guess everyone’s preparing for next year’s centenary celebrations. Well, I will do it my way then. I decided to visit all of the biggest concert halls she sang in, and leave a flower with a birthday note to remind the staff of just who we commemorate today.
Theatre du Palais-Royal (f.k.a. Palais Royal Cabaret) was the first on my list. It will be a sentimental journey, because Jean Cocteau – Edith Piaf’s close friend lived at the back of this cabaret. Then I will go to the Olympia Music Hall – the oldest concert hall in Paris. Piaf went through some serious musical marathons here as she performed everyday for a month, then for two months, and just before she passed away, for three months! Sometimes she would sing two recitals in one day! The third spot on my list would be Theatre du Nord-Quest (f.k.a. Club de Cinq). Edith Piaf along with Yves Montand did a series of concerts here in 1946. Ernest Hemingway was one of their devoted listeners. I will also visit the Cabaret l’Alhambra where Piaf performed after her critically acclaimed debut of „Le Gerny”. Some of the other venues famous in the 40’s and 50’s don’t exist anymore. My last stop will be the Moulin Rouge where Edith Piaf discovered a young artist by the name of Yves Montand and made him a big star. It will be nice to finish to Piaf’s birthday walk in Montmartre. It’s a magical place, which Edith knew well. Her favorite restaurant was La Cloche d’Or and I also visit it from time to time.
If You know how Paris celebrates Edith Piaf’s birthday, write me here: firstname.lastname@example.org . Maybe our little sparrow isn’t forgotten..