Juliette Greco, French singer and actress died on the 23rd of September 2020 at the age of 93.
She was known for her stunning good looks, her sultry voice and her colourful life.
Captivated so many
After the Second World War she was the darling of the philosophers, poets and musicians of existentialist Paris. She was married three times and had a long relationship with the American film producer, Darryl Zanuck.
She was born in the south of France in Montpellier. It appears that her mother abandoned her and she was brought up for the first 7 years of her life by her maternal grandparents in Bordeaux. At the age of 7 she returned to her mother and Juliette and her sister went with their mother to Paris.
Victim of the Second World War
During the war her mother worked for the French resistance and she and her two daughters were arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. Juliette’s mother and sister were taken off to Ravensbruck concentration camp and Juliette, then aged 16 was tortured and spent time as a prisoner of the Germans in France’s second largest prison, in Fresnes.
Her mother and sister survived the concentration camp but returned home emaciated and barely recognisable.
Of her Gestapo interrogator Juliette Greco wrote, ““I will never forgive him. I know that I myself will fight until the last day of my life, against oppression, against intellectual terrorism, indifference and the denial of the only treasure that is worth preserving at all costs: the right to live as we choose, to think, to laugh, to give, to change, to love without fear whatever and whoever we love.”
Her admirers included Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jacques Prévert, Boris Vian, Jean Cocteau, Sacha Distel, American musician/composer Quincy Jones, and the U.S. jazz musician Miles Davis. Many songs were specially written and composed for her. Joseph Kosma, Charles Trenet, George Brassens, Serge Gainsbourg all wrote music for her.
According to Wikipedia she had a number of notable English admirers too. “Michelle, by the Beatles was inspired by Gréco and the Parisian Left Bank culture. Paul McCartney said of the song: ‘We’d tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing. They’d all wear black turtleneck sweaters. It’s kind of where we got all that from, and we fancied Juliette like mad. Have you ever seen her? Dark hair, real chanteuse, really happening. So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be Michelle.’”
John Lennon wrote in Skywriting by Word of Mouth: “I’d always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, dark-haired, high-cheek-boned, free-spirited artist à la Juliette Gréco.”
Marianne Faithfull said of Gréco: “When I was a young girl, Juliette Gréco was my absolute idol…She’s my role model for life. If I want to be anybody, I want to be Juliette Gréco”
Juliette Greco was married to actor Philippe Lemaire (1953–1956), actor Michel Piccoli (1966–1977) and pianist Gérard Jouannest (1988 until his death in 2018). She had a daughter who died of cancer at the age of 60.
She was honoured by the French state and establishment, becoming Commander of the Legion of Honour (2012): and receiving the National Order of Merit (2015). The honour of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters she received in 2016.
She was the last of the great chanteuse.
David. davidrobertsblog.com 2 October 2020.