La vie en rose: The true meaning behind the famous song

Voir la vie en rose (To see life in rose/pink) is the French equivalent to the expression “to see life through rose-colored glasses” in English. That is, seeing the world in an idealized, naïve, sometimes romantic, way.

You may know this phrase because of Edith Piaf’s iconic song, La vie en rose.  Written mostly by Piaf, it was released as a single in 1947 and is one of the singer’s most famous hits. The song may even be one of the reasons you want to learn French.

Let’s learn more about the meaning of la vie en rose, as well as the song that it inspired.

Where does the phrase la vie en rose come from?

According to this source, the phrase voir la vie en rose dates to the second half of the 19th century. But the author points out that the color pink has been associated with love and romantic thinking for much longer than that.

What does the song La vie en rose mean?

Heart-shaped balloons float up into a blue, sunny sky.

The song La vie en rose, which was co-written and made famous by Edith Piaf, is about seeing the beauty of life and feeling being happy and carefree when you’re with the person you love.

It’s a universal feeling, and may have been even more appreciated when the song was released, just after the horrors and sadness of World War II.  You can visit a site like this one to read the lyrics to La vie en rose.

YouTube video

Who sang La vie en rose?

Edith Piaf sang the most famous version of La vie en rose. Written in 1944-1945, her interpretation of the song was released as a single in 1947.

Edith Piaf made the song famous, and it’s most commonly associated with her. But many other artists from around the world have covered it through the years. I’ll mention some of them a little further on.

Did Edith Piaf write La vie en rose?

Edith Piaf sang the most famous version of La vie en rose (and rightly so, in my opinion – no one has a voice like hers!).  But not only did she make the song famous with her vocals; she also co-wrote its lyrics.

The story goes that one day in 1945, Piaf and her friend Marianne Michel met at a cafe terrace in Paris. Michel had a few notes and words and asked Piaf if she could come up with lyrics. Piaf then wrote most of what we know of as the song today.

But one major difference is that her original lyrics went, “j’vois des trucs en rose” (I see things/stuff through rose-colored glasses). Michel made the decision to change the line to the conventional phrase “je vois la vie en rose.” Lyricist Henri Content also advised a few small changes, and soon, the words of the classic love song as we know it were born. The music is credited to Louiguy, a famous musician from that era.

With Piaf’s permission, Michel sang the song at local music halls and made her own recording of it before Piaf decided to record and her version in 1946. It was released as a single in 1947.

The song quickly became a classic and an iconic part of Piaf’s body of work.

Is there an English version of La vie en rose?

Closeup on a cluster or tight bouquet of pink roses

La vie en rose was so popular that Edith Piaf even recorded a version of the song in English.

YouTube video

The lyrics, which you can read in the comment below the video, aren’t a line-by-line, literal translation. The only thing that’s the same is, in fact, the phrase la vie en rose, which is left in the original French. But while the rest of the song isn’t an exact translation, its overall meaning is the same.

Many other artists have performed English versions of La vie en rose, as well.

Has La vie en rose been featured in any movies?

You can find La vie en rose on the soundtracks of many movies from the past seventy years(!), including La Môme, the 2007 Piaf biopic starring Marion Cotillard as the singer. This website features an impressive list of other movies La vie en rose has been featured in.

Who else has sung La vie en rose?

La vie en rose has been covered by numerous singers and artists throughout the years, including Grace Jones, Lady Gaga, Michel Bublé, and Louis Armstrong.  

To get an idea of just how many people have done covers of La vie en rose, this site features a seven-page list!

You listen to many of these covers on YouTube or Spotify.  

Is La vie en rose a popular song in France today?

Seen from behind, a couple sits on the high grasses and looks out over a lake at sunrise or sunset. The woman leans her head on the man's shoulder. From her lacy white gown and his suit, as well as the bouqet in one of her hands, they are probably newlyweds.

French music has changed a lot since the 1940’s, but La vie en rose is a classic French song, and Edith Piaf is considered one of the greatest French singers to ever live. Interestingly, though, according to a 2016 survey, another Piaf song, L’hymne à l’amour, took the top score as the French’s favorite love song of all time.

Still, as its continuing popularity and extensive list of film appearances and covers show, La vie en rose remains one of the most romantic love songs around!

I hope this article has answered your questions about the meaning of la vie en rose. Now, if you’re feeling romantic, why not go listen to Piaf’s song (or your favorite cover of it) and revel in the timeless happiness and hope of love?

And if you feel like living la vie en rose in France one day, why not start by learning conversational French?

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Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.