Edith Gassion was born in Paris in 1915.
Her mother abandoned her at birth and her grandmother raised her in a brothel.
Her friends and mentors were the prostitutes she grew up with.
At 14, she began earning money by singing on the streets.
At 17, she was pregnant and got married.
At 19, a nightclub owner heard her unusual voice and hired her to sing in his club.
She was so tiny, just 4’ 8” tall and weighing 66lbs, that he called her “La Mome Piaf” (The Little Sparrow).
So Edith Gassion changed her name to Edith Piaf.
Her voice, trained in street singing, sounded like no one else.
The public loved her, every song she sang became a massive hit.
But she lived a self-destructive life.
Gossip and scandal, public love affairs, rumoured prostitution, heavy drinking.
In 1949 the love of her life, world-champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, was killed in a plane crash.
In 1951 she was seriously injured in the first of a series of car crashes.
She became addicted to morphine and collapsed on stage in a coma.
By 1960, aged just 45, she was clearly reaching the end of her career.
Composer Charles Dumont always had one ambition in life, for the legendary Piaf to sing one of his songs.
He had composed thirty songs for her, but every time she turned him down.
She said his music was too military, it sounded like horses galloping.
By now Dumont was penniless.
His friend, the lyricist Michel Vaucaire, said he should take one last chance.
This time they would present the music with words Vaucaire would write.
They arranged an appointment with Piaf’s secretary.
When Piaf found out she told her secretary to cancel it.
But the secretary couldn’t get hold of them and they turned up at Piaf’s flat.
Piaf said, okay play one song then go.
Dumont began to play his military music, Vaucaire began to sing in French:
“No, absolutely nothing.
No, I regret nothing.
Not the good, I’ve been given,
Not the bad, it’s all the same to me.
No absolutely nothing.
No, I regret nothing.
It is paid for, done, forgotten.
I don’t care about the past.”
When he finished, Piaf simply said “Play it again.”
Afterwards, with tears in her eyes, she said “This will be my greatest song ever.”
The words worked perfectly against the music.
It sounded like the victory of love, of never giving in no matter what life threw at you.
It did indeed become her greatest song ever.
It sold 100,000 copies in two days, a phenomenal amount at that time.
Three years later Edith Piaf died, and “Je Ne Regrette Rien” will always be her most iconic song.
Charles Dumont learned that it wasn’t that his work was wrong.
It was just the wrong place and the wrong time.
By not giving up, by keeping going until he found the right place and the right time, he had the biggest hit of his, Michel Vaucaire’s, and Edith Piaf’s lives.
And if he’d quit when it made sense to quit, it would never have happened.
This article originally appeared on davetrott.co.uk