Edith Piaf – sometimes called ‘The Little Sparrow’ – was the pride and joy of her country and a symbol of French passion and tenacity. If you take a stroll through the Menilmontant and Belleville districts today, you will see pictures of her in bars and regular tributes held by the residents in honor of her work. The people there draw great pride from the fact that she came from those streets – and with good reason. Edith Piaf was one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, and her songs remain relevant today. If you are new to her work, here is a list of the top 10 Edith Piaf Songs you should definitely listen to.
10. Mon Légionnaire
Mon Légionnaire is a beautiful ballad from Piaf’s early career days in which she talks about her quest to find true love. She is interested in a fetching legionnaire, but his home country is a member of the French legion. At the time of the release, France and Algeria were in conflict.
9. La Foule
La Foule is a heartbreaking song about Piaf’s endless quest to find true love. In the song, which translates to ‘the crowd,’ Piaf tells the story of a woman that finds herself being pushed by a large crowd of people then bumps into a man with whom she instantly falls in love, only to be carried away from him by the crowd moments later. The woman never sees the man again.
If you have read Piaf’s life story, you know that most of her early life was spent in a brothel after her mother abandoned her. Her rich past experienced permeate this song, Milord (my lord), which is about a prostitute that falls in love with a lord she can never have. Although Piaf never shared the inspiration for this breathtaking ballad, most of her music drew from this chapter of her life.
7. La Goualante du Pauvre Jean
Although La Goualante du Pauvre Jean translates to ‘the poor people of Paris,’ it doesn’t talk about poor people at all. It is about a Parisian hustler who is a big shot at first but manages to get thrown in jail. It is an old French folk song that Piaf made popular when she lent her voice and talent to it.
6. Les Trois Cloches
Les Trois Cloches was originally composed in Sweden but gained international acclaim after Piaf recorded it. It soon became one of her most popular works for international performances, most especially in the United States, where she would open tours with it. Essentially, the song tells the tale of Jean-Francois Nicot, for whom the church bells in the little valley rang three times – during his baptism, wedding, and funeral. Since its release, it has been translated and recorded in several English versions, including a pop song called “The Three Bells.”
5. Mon Dieu
Mon Dieu, which translates to ‘My God,’ is a song in which Piaf pleads with God to keep a loved one alive for a few more days because she has not made enough memories with them. The lyrics betray desperation and sensitivity, which might explain why Piaf never talked much about her inspiration. Released in 1960, Mon Dieu might have been originally released in French, but it was later recorded in English. It is one of her saddest songs.
4. Padam, Padam
Padam, Padam is sure to get stuck in your ear once you listen to it. This catchy tune has been interpreted multiple times, with some people claiming that ‘Padam’ is the sound made by a lover’s heart and others calling it the buzz of Paris. In other accounts, ‘Padam’ is said to be a nonsense syllable that Edith liked to insert into songs when she forgot the words. Whatever the interpretation, the song is about Paris. Piaf once said that the song ‘comes from as far away as I come.’ It displays a series of concerts, parties, and travels that Edith found less and less enjoyable.
3. Hymne à L’Amour
Hymne à L’Amour is a tune for the hopeless romantic – and Piaf was one. She had many partners throughout her life, but her earliest and strongest love was heavyweight boxer, Marcel Cerdan. In fact, the song was dedicated to him as a final goodbye and thank you for his love and the time they spent together. Cerdan – who was married during his relationship with Piaf – died in a plane crash in October 1949 while on his way to New York City to see Piaf.
2. La Vie En Rose
Originally released in 1945, La Vie En Rose is Edith Piaf’s most famous song. It has been covered countless times by musicians from all over the world and is one of the few songs that is globally associated with her home country of France. This ballad is a lyrical masterpiece that embodies the true spirit of France. The name – La Vie En Rose – was later used as the title of Edith’s biopic, which was released in 2007 to critical acclaim.
1. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
Number one on our list is one of Edith Piaf’s trademark songs – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien . The song, which translates to ‘No, I have no regrets,’ was the last song she ever made before her death in 1963 and is considered one of her most famous works. In it, Piaf recounts all the mistakes she has made in life and remembers missed opportunities and lost loves but affirms that she regrets nothing. It was written by lyricist Michel Vaucaire and composer Charles Dumont and recorded in 1960 by Edith. Today, it is featured in many films and advertisements, including Inception. .
Most of Edith Piaf Songs are older than 50 years, but they continue to be celebrated and covered by fellow musicians and music lovers all over the world. While these ten are definitely some of her best work, every tune Edith put her hands on turned to gold.