Mireille Mathieu was born and raised in Avignon, Vaucluse département, France, the eldest daughter of a family of fourteen children. The youngest brother born after she had moved to Paris. Her father Roger (French pronunciation: [ʁɔ.ʒe]) 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,
which is still in business today. The family lived in poverty, and were dependent 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.