Jean-Paul Sartre wrote of her that her voice contained millions of poems. Juliette Gréco was the muse of post-war Parisian bohemians – black-clad, young, sensual and provocative. The “Queen of Existentialists” then ruled France and successfully exported the chanson to the world.
And it has experienced success in the new millennium. She continued to give concerts, releasing albums. In 2004 she excelled again at the Paris Olympia, and in April 2012 she was applauded by the standing audience in the sold-out theater auditorium in Stuttgart.
Juliette Gréco was born on February 7, 1927 in Montpellier in the south of France. Her father was a police commissioner and her parents soon divorced. Juliette grew up with her grandparents in Bordeaux until 1933, when her mother took her to Paris. Since 1937, the ten-year-old girl has been dancing in the choir of the Paris Opera.
Julietta’s mother was involved in the resistance during the war, and in 1943 she was arrested by the Gestapo, along with Juliette and her sister. The mother and sister were deported to Ravensbrück, from where they did not return until after the war. Juliette was released and her mother’s girlfriend, actress Helene Duk, took her in, leading her to singing and acting.
Juliette made her public singing debut in 1949 at the club Le Boeuf sur le Toit: “In front of me sat in the hall everyone who meant something in Paris at the time. Jean Cocteau, Darius Milhaud, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Francis Poulenc. .. I had a terrible fear, “she later admitted.
Love with Miles Davis
At the same time, she experienced a “miracle of love” with the famous American trumpeter Miles Davis, although he did not speak French and she did not speak English.
Already her debut single Je suis comme je suis (1951) with Prévert’s lyrics garnered great acclaim. And in 1954, she triumphed for the first time in the legendary Olympia.
She also experienced acting success in Jean Cocteau’s 1949 film Orpheus.
Before returning to France for her main love – chanson – she worked with John Huston and Orson Welles, among others. In total, she appeared in about 20 films.
Juliette Greco in 2012
Photo: Reinhardt Daniel, ČTK
The following years brought her new recordings, countless tours and concerts, but also retreats and several comebacks. In December 1975, the “Lady in Black” dazzled Prague’s Lucerna, and in 1981, she insulted Pinochet’s military dictatorship on the stage in Chile by singing banned songs. She was returned to “ramp lights” by the autobiography Jujube (1982) and also by the successful studio album (1993) with Brazilian stars Caetan Velos and Joa Bosco.
During her last tour in 2015, she celebrated her 89th birthday right on stage. Passion, struggle, love and intense laughter – these were the words with which Gréco herself described her life.