Mireille Mathieu (French pronunciation: [miˈʁɛj maˈtjø]) (born 22 July 1946) is a French chanteuse, and pop singer. Hailed in the French press as the successor to Édith Piaf, she has achieved great commercial success, recording over 1200 songs in nine different languages, with more than 120 million records sold worldwide. Mireille Mathieu was born and raised in Avignon, Vaucluse, France, the eldest daughter of a family of fourteen children. The youngest brother born after she had moved to Paris. Her father Roger was from Avignon, and her mother Marcelle-Sophie Poirier came to Avignon from Dunkirk in 1944, as a refugee from World War II. Roger, with his father Arcade, ran a stonemason shop outside the Saint-Véran Cemetery in Avignon. The family lived in poverty, and were dependant on government housing.
Roger had once dreamed of becoming a singer, but his father Arcade disapproved, inspiring him to have one of his children learn to sing with him in church. Mireille's first paid performance before an audience, at age four, was rewarded with a lollipop. Another defining moment was seeing Édith Piaf sing on television.
Mireille performed poorly in elementary school due to dyslexia, requiring an extra year to graduate. Abandoning higher education, she began work in a local factory in Montfavet at age fourteen (1960), where she helped with the family income and paid for singing lessons. Very popular at work, she often sang songs at lunch, or while working. Like her parents, she is a short woman at five-feet in height. Her sister Monique (French pronunciation: [monikə]) began work at the same factory a few months later, both given bicycles on credit to commute with, making for very long days.