Juliette Gréco


7 February 1927 - 23 September 2020

Juliette Gréco, the muse of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, is definitely one of the most legendary french artists ever. Her singing and acting career took off right after World War II and up till this day she continued to release albums regularly and perform recitals on stages all over France.

Juliette Gréco was born in Montpellier, in the South of France, in 1927. Juliette and her elder sister, Charlotte, were brought up by their maternal grandparents who lived in Bordeaux. Juliette was educated by nuns in an extremely strict convent school. In 1933 Juliette's mother joined her daughters in Bordeaux and shortly afterwards all three of them would head off for Paris.

Right after the outbreak of World War II, the Gréco family returned to the South West of France. Juliette's mother joined the resistance until Gestapo officers arrested her in 1943. Juliette and Charlotte fled the family home and returned to Paris. The German occupiers arrested them and Juliette's mother and sister were deported to a prison camp. Juliette, being only 16, was allowed to stay in France. After being released from prison, Juliette spend the rest of the war years in a temporary home, provided by her teacher Hélène Duc.

In the late war years Juliette enrolled in drama classes and started hanging out in cafés in the Quarter Latin and Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the 'Rive Gauche' (left bank of Paris). She took an active interest in politics, attending Young Communist meetings and conducting political discussions in cafés. Juliette's mother and sister were released from prison camp at the end of the war and in 1945 the family returned to live in the South West of France. After a few years Juliette headed back to Paris. In the city of light, Juliette soon became part of the post war art scene, hanging out with poets, musicians, writers and painters in the cafés of Saint-Germain, among them Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian, Jean Cocteau and Miles Davis. Thanks to the combination of intelligence, looks and attitude, Juliette soon became a major figure on the Saint Germain scene and encouraged by her friends she started an acting and singing career.

  • 1949: Gréco's first public concert performance at 'Le Bœuf sur le Toit', singing songs by a.o. Raymond Queneau, Jules Lafforgue, Jacques Prévert and Joseph Kosma.
  • 1949 Gréco stars in Cocteau's film 'Orphée'.
  • 1951: Gréco's debut single 'Je suis comme je suis', written by Prévert & Kosma.
  • 1952: successful appearance in the 'April in Paris' show in the United States.
  • 1954: legendary and triumphant performance in the famous Olympia hall in Paris.
  • 1954: the French Association of Songwriters and Composers (SACEM) awarded the singer their prestigious 'Grand prix' for the song 'Je hais les dimanches', written by Florence Véran and Charles Aznavour.
  • 1954: Gréco marries French actor Philippe Lemaire and the couple gets a daughter, Laurence-Marie.
  • 1956: Gréco and Lemaire break up and she leaves for the United States where she performs several successful concerts and works with famous Hollywoord stars like Henri King, John Huston and Orson Welles. Brief relationship with American film producer Darryl Zanuck.
  • 1962: Successful recitals at the Bobino and Olympia in Paris.
  • 1963: Gréco sings 'La Javanaise', penned by Serge Gainsbourg thus launching the career of this new singer/songwriter.
  • 1965: Gréco stars in the famous French television series 'Belphégor'.
  • 1965: Gréco marries French actor Michel Piccoli.
  • 1967: Gréco performs a series of highly successful concerts in Berlin.
  • 1975: Recitals at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris.
  • 1976: Gréco starts to work with Gérard Jouannest, pianist, compositeur, arranger and long-time collabotaror of legendary Belgian star Jacques Brel.
  • 1982: publication of Gréco's autobiography 'Jujube'
  • 1983: release of the album 'Gréco 83'
  • 1989: Gréco marries Jouannest, her long-time musical and personal companion
  • 1991: tribute by the Printemps de Bourges
  • 1992: successful recitals in the Olympia hall in Paris
  • 1993: release of the album 'Juliette Gréco', featuring contributions from Etienne Roda-Gil, Julien Clerc, Caetano Veloso and Joao Bosco, among others.
  • 1998: release of the album 'Un jour d'été et quelques nuits', written by Jean-Claude Carrière and arranged by Gérard Jouannest.
  • 1999: recitals at the l'Odéon theatre in Paris.
  • 1999: French minister of Culture, Catherine Trautmann, presents Juliette Gréco with the 'Ordre National du Mérite'.
  • 2000/2001: international tour followed by heart problems during a performance in Montpellier
  • 2003: release of the album 'Aimez-vous les uns les autres, ou bien disparaissez' with songs by Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Claude Carrière, Louis Aragon and Bernard Lavilliers, Gérard Manset, Marie Nimier, Jean Rouaud, Art Mengo, Christophe Miossec, Benjamin Biolay and, of course, Gérard Jouannest.
  • 2003/2004: international concert tour.
  • 2004: release of the double CD/DVD 'Olympia 2004'.
  • 2006: Gréco releases the album 'Le temps d'une chanson', which contains her interpretations of famous French songs.
  • 2012: Gréco signs to the German classical label Deutsche Grammophon for 'Ça se traverse et c'est beau'.
  • 2015: Gréco annouces her retirement from the stage and limelight. She gives a last bunch of French shows in april of that year.
  • Gréco died on 23 September 2020 at the age of 93

On the web:

Unfortunately, we could not find a website dedicated to Juliette Gréco.
For an extensive biography: http://www.rfimusique.com/siteEn/biographie/biographie_6308.asp

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What do we think:

PR: Gréco is for a hughe part responsible for me developing a special taste for French music (and later on music in other European languages than English). My dear mother bought me my first Gréco-album for Christmas, 1984. It was an album with new versions of songs she already recorded in the past. I was stunned, especially by her version of the Jacques Brel song 'J'arrive'. After some twenty years, I finally got to see her perform live in a very small venu in The Hague, Holland. It was a highly emotional experience for me, seeing and hearing 70 years of French history right in front of me! A few years later, we took my mother with us to Paris to one of Gréco's many recitals in the Olympia theatre in Paris. La Gréco is a legend, she does not have style, she defined it! And even after a carreer of more than 50 years, she is still going strong, releasing interesting and critically highly acclaimed albums and performing live. Bravo, madame Gréco!

DB: With Dalida it's the hair, with Greco it's the hands. Mysticaly waving around, pointing, pulling you into the song. Like a snake charmer. Seeing her for the first time at a festival in The Hague was an impressive experience. That an artists could show so much emotion with so little. Just a black dress, eyes wide open, one lightspot and then those hands. She should give a crash course in performing to the boys and girls joining Idols. She made numerous albums over the years, never changing, as if it's 1959 forever. And rightly so, she is the Grande Dame of french chanson and should never change. She should however have signed my album sleeve when I stepped to the stage in The Hague. Like a true diva she wouldn't. Damn.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪♪ - A l'Olympia - 1954

♪♪♪♪ - A la Philharmonie de Berlin - 1965

♪♪♪♪ - Face à face - 1970

♪♪♪♪ - Mon fils chante - 1972

♪♪♪♪ - Recital enregistrement public a Sogetsu-Hall - 1982

♪♪♪♪♪ - Juliette Gréco à l'Olympia (2cd) - 1992

& ♪♪♪♪ - Juliette Gréco - 1993/1994

♪♪♪♪ - Un jour d'été et quelques nuits... - 1998

♪♪♪ - Odéon (2cd) - 1999

♪♪♪♪♪ - Aimez-vous les uns et les autres, ou bien disparaissez...- 2003

♪♪♪♪ - Olympia (2cd) - 2004

♪♪♪ - Le temps d'une chanson - 2006

♪♪♪ - Je me souviens de tout - 2009

♪♪♪♪ - Ça se traverse et c'est beau- 2012

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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