LA VIE EN ROSE – the vulnerable romantic

This song was composed by Edith Piaf in the final years of World War 2 and is far more than a hit.  It is honoured by some as the unofficial national anthem of the French.  And it is a single line in this love chanson that sets the tone in the lyric –the beloved is compared with an unretouched portrait, an affectionate ambiguity.

                     “the smile lost on his lips”

The title in relation to the lyric suggests a vulnerable romanticism – life in a rosy hue, or even, life in pink.  “Moonlight and roses” comes to mind as well as the ease with which life fractures it.

                            The orphan sparrow

La Vie en Rose cannot of course be seen apart from Edith Piaf.  As a child she was called la môme, the orphan sparrow, probably as a result of crippling poverty and the unpredictability of bohemian life once her talent had been discovered.  It is this pathos that we hear in Piaf’s voice, something which still touches people.  And she had endeared herself to the French public when accusations of collaboration with the German occupiers, calling her a collabo, were launched against her.  A close friend in the French Resistance set things straight.

After an internationally successful life, the life style and encroaching health problems took their toll and she died at an early age in Grasse, in the south of France, in 1963.  She had still recorded her hit Non, je ne regrette rien in 1960, another chanson that recalls her vulnerable romanticism.  She was laid to rest in Paris.  There were 100,000 people at her funeral.  And, if you listen, you’ll hear her voice in every piano accordion on the Champs Elysées.

                        “… the beat of my heart …”


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017



Wikipedia: biography and “La Vie en Rose »

You Tube, for the song



Roses on music sheet –

La môme  –

Edith Piaf  –





2 Responses to LA VIE EN ROSE – the vulnerable romantic

  1. Charmian Plummer says:

    Dear Will

    I was in Tours 1 1/2 hours from Paris in 1963 studying French at l ‘Institut de Touraine when Edith Piaf died! The country went into mourning! As you can imagine. Her plaintive music was played over and over! Beautiful. And in Tours there was an American college where students who were studying French in America could come to stay to do their final year at our Institute. So, as you can imagine, when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 too, the town went into mourning for the second time that year! Your article broughf if all into focus again. Thank you. A few years later, I visited Edith Piaf’s grave (plus others), in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, a must.

    Miss you, my friend! Have jusy returned from a trip to New Zealand and Singapore. Francois has three sons and 1 daughter; Caroline has 1 son and now expecting a twin!

    When are you coming back to SA?

    Much love Charmian

    Sent from Samsung tablet

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