I just wanna quickly address two issues that have got me troubled. Firstly, how much of an artist’s biography should be related to his work? Do traumatic experiences always have to be exposed as the reason behind the work’s creation? Secondly, why do we always assume that an artist should have such traumas in order to be more creative? Are artists alienated, melancholic figures? I took the example of Edith Piaf and her greatly publisized personal life, full of misfortunate events for contemplation. Any conclusions?
Édith Piaf (19 December 1915—10 October 1963) was a French singer and cultural icon who is widely accepted as the country’s greatest pop singer. Her singing reflected her tragic life, with her specialty being the poignant ballad performed in a heartbreaking voice.
-She was born on the pavement of Rue de Belleville 72.
-Piaf’s parents soon abandoned her, and she lived for a short time with her maternal grandmother.
-Before enlisting with the French Army in 1916 to fight in World War I, her father took Piaf to her mother, who ran a Normandy brothel. The prostitutes helped look after Piaf.
-From the age of three to seven, Piaf was allegedly blind as a result of keratitis. She recovered her sight after her grandmother’s prostitutes pooled money to send her on a pilgrimage honoring Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, resulting in a miraculous healing.
-She firstly became a street singer in Pigalle, Ménilmontant, and the Paris suburbs.
-At 17, she had her only child, a girl named Marcelle, who died of meningitis at age two. Like her mother, Piaf found it difficult to care for a child while living a life of the streets, so she often left Marcelle alone while she was away.
-Piaf’s boyfriend was a pimp named Albert who took a commission from the money she made singing in exchange for not forcing her into prostitution. One of her friends, a girl named Nadia, killed herself when faced with the thought of becoming a prostitute, and Albert nearly shot Piaf when she ended the relationship in reaction to Nadia’s death.
-On April 6, 1936, Leplée, the one who fist employed her as a singer, was murdered and Piaf was questioned in the matter and accused of being an accessory. He had been killed by mobsters with previous ties to Piaf. This resulted in much negative media attention directed towards Piaf, which threatened her career.
-During World War II, she was a frequent performer at German Forces social gatherings in occupied France, and many considered her a traitor.
-The great love of Piaf’s life, the married boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash in October 1949, while flying from New York City to Paris to meet her. Cerdan’s Air France flight, went down in the Azores, killing everyone on board.
-In 1951 Piaf was involved in a car crash breaking an arm and two ribs, and thereafter had difficulty breaking serious morphine and alcohol addictions. Two more near-fatal car crashes exacerbated the situation.
-Piaf died of liver cancer at Plascassier, on the French Riviera, on 10 October 1963. She had slipped in and out of consciousness for the last months of her life. It is said that Sarapo drove her body back to Paris secretly so that fans would think she had died in her hometown.
-She was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle.