Juliette Gréco, Grande Dame of Chanson Française, Dies at 93

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Juliette Gréco, the singing muse of bohemian postwar Paris who grew to become the grande dame of chanson française and an internationally identified actress, died on Wednesday. She was 93.

Her household stated in a statement despatched to the information company AFP that she had died at her house, although it didn’t say the place she lived. No different particulars have been supplied.

For nearly seven many years, Ms. Gréco was a loyal practitioner of the musical custom referred to as chanson française, a selected storytelling style of fashionable music. The songs are “like little plays,” she advised The New York Occasions in 1999, including: “They’re typically French. We’re a people who express our love in songs, our anger in songs, even our revolution in songs.”

She was the darling of critics, in addition to of the intellectuals whose world she inhabited. Ms. Gréco’s final rave assessment got here from a good friend, the Existentialist thinker Jean-Paul Sartre, who stated merely, “Gréco has a million poems in her voice.”

Her signature hits included “Sous le Ciel de Paris” (“Under Parisian Skies”), “Les Feuilles Mortes” (which English audio system know as “Autumn Leaves”), “Déshabillez-Moi” (“Undress Me”), “Jolie Môme” (“Pretty Kid”) and “Je Suis Comme Je Suis” (“I Am What I Am”).

In an essay for The Times in 1952, the pianist and composer Ernest Lubin analyzed Ms. Gréco’s greatness. He praised her “deep, throaty voice that ranges from a near whisper to raucous abandon,” her capability to “create a mood of astonishing intensity and conviction,” her stage presence and even her repertory, with its “feeling for literary values.”

Juliette Gréco was born on Feb. 7, 1927, in Montpellier, France, close to the Mediterranean coast. Her dad and mom, Gérard Gréco, a Corsican-born police officer, and Juliette (Lafeychine) Gréco, who was from Bordeaux, quickly separated, and Juliette was introduced up partly by her grandmother. She was 12 when World Conflict II started in Europe and 13 when Hitler’s troops marched down the Champs-Élysées.

Each her mom and her sister labored within the Resistance and have been arrested and shipped off to Nazi camps (they survived); due to their affiliation, Juliette spent a short while in a French jail. After the conflict, nonetheless in her teenagers, she lived alone in Paris.

With the assistance of a household good friend, the actress Hélène Duc, she took drama classes whereas working as a form of mixture hostess and bouncer at Le Tabou, a jazz membership within the coronary heart of St.-Germain-des-Prés, the Left Financial institution neighborhood that had develop into the town’s heart of bohemian life.

Throughout this time her behavior of sporting males’s garments, together with rolled-up pants, was necessitated by poverty and made doable by the hand-me-downs of male buddies who lived in the identical pension. The type caught on.

Although she had but to garner consideration as an actress, her distinctive look — she dressed all in black, wore her darkish hair straight and lengthy, had thick bangs and liberally utilized black eyeliner — bought the eye of main French photographers, who took and printed photos of her. “I was becoming famous with out actually having executed something,” Ms. Gréco advised The Guardian in 2006, “which is a very uncomfortable position.”

As a fixture within the neighborhood, she grew to become shut buddies with among the most admired philosophers and authors of their time: Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Boris Vian and Albert Camus. And, as she stated, she discovered simply by listening to them.

“I was all curiosity, but I felt I didn’t have anything to give in return,” she stated. “I was at that age where all one does is take.”

By the point the famend prewar Proper Financial institution cabaret Le Boeuf sur le Toît reopened in 1949, Ms. Gréco had determined to strive singing. She was provided a job serving to to arrange the primary present and — after looking for musical strategies from inventive buddies like Jacques Prévert, Joseph Kosma and Sartre — she forged herself.

That was the start. Her first single recording, “Je Suis Comme Je Suis,” was launched in 1951. Her first album, “Juliette Gréco — Chante Ses Derniers Succès,” appeared the subsequent 12 months. However her star-defining triumph was her 1954 live performance at Olympia Corridor in Paris, after a tour of the USA and South America. Through the efficiency she launched “Je Hais les Dimanches” (“I Hate Sundays”), a brand new quantity by a younger songwriter, Charles Aznavour.

Ms. Gréco had made her movie debut even earlier than her singing profession started — as a nun in “Les Frères Bouquinquant,” a 1948 drama. She went on to look in virtually 30 movies, principally within the 1950s and ’60s. They included Jean Cocteau’s “Orphée” (1950), as Aglaonice, an astronomer-witch; “The Sun Also Rises” (1957), an American adaptation of Hemingway’s novel, with Tyrone Energy and Ava Gardner; “The Roots of Heaven” (1958), a drama set in Africa, by which she starred reverse Errol Flynn; and “Crack in the Mirror” (1960), with Orson Welles.

Ms. Gréco sang the title tune, on digital camera, in “Bonjour Tristesse” (1958). Her last appearing function was in “Jedermanns Fest” (2002), a multinational drama with Klaus Maria Brandauer, and he or she appeared as herself in “Dan les Pas de Marie Curie” (2011), a French-Polish documentary.

She additionally made a long-lasting impression in a 1965 French mini-series, “Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre.” When it grew to become a function movie in 2001, she was forged in a small function as a tribute to her affect.

1n 1953, Ms. Gréco married the actor Philippe Lemaire; they divorced in 1956. Their daughter, Laurence-Marie Lemaire, died in 2016. She was married to the French actor Michel Piccoli from 1966 till their divorce in 1977. She was with the pianist and composer Gérard Jouannest, her third husband, from 1988 till his demise in 2018.

Her longest and best-known romantic relationship could have been with the American musician Miles Davis, whom she met when he was showing in Paris in 1949. Sartre reportedly as soon as requested him why he and Ms. Gréco weren’t married. In keeping with Ms. Gréco, Mr. Davis replied, “I love her too much to make her unhappy.”

In 2014, Ms. Gréco advised The Guardian, “We saw each other regularly until his death” in 1991.

Ms. Gréco introduced her farewell tour in 2015, telling the regional newspaper La Dépêche that retirement was “very complicated for me.” She stated she didn’t wish to create the sight of “an old woman hanging on.”

The final tour date was in Might 2017 in Paris. Her final album, “Gréco Chante Brel,” was launched 4 years earlier than.

In her later years, Ms. Gréco was unapologetically nostalgic for the nice outdated days.

Today there is much less magic,” she advised The Montreal Gazette in 2015, lamenting, amongst different issues, the present distance between intellectuals and their college students. “Things have changed. Perhaps the young have been taken hostage by money.”


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Anita Gates

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