Juliette Gréco, muse of existentialism and icon of the ‘chanson française’, dies at 93

    The French singer Juliette Gréco, famous for titles such as “La Javanaise” and “Déshabillez-moi”, died this Wednesday at the age of 93, after almost 70 years of career. In the universe of the ‘chanson française’, a woman she held the nickname of icon like no other. Her friendship with philosophers and poets earned her also to be considered “muse of existentialists”.

    He was born in Montpellier, in the south of France, on February 7, 1927, but his life really took off in Paris: in the bars of Saint-Germain he met Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and coincided with greats of the scene as American jazz pianist and composer Duke Ellington.

    Cinema, theater, music and cabaret shaped her artistic career.

    A trajectory in which she remained active until 2015, the year in which she launched her farewell tour, “Merci”, aware of a probable near end that she wanted to be caught “standing up, as elegantly as possible” .

    From Gainsbourg to Aznavour
    De Gréco have transcended titles such as “Les feuilles mortes” (1951) and “La Javanaise” (1963), with lyrics by Jacques Prévert and Serge Gainsbourg, or “Je hais les dimanches” (1951) and “Déshabillez-moi” (1967 ), written by Charles Aznavour and Robert Nyel.

    His childhood was lonely, as Le Monde recalled this Wednesday, with a “chaotic” relationship with his mother and an absent father, and was marked by World War II (1939-1945), for which his mother and sister, members of the French Resistance, were deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp and imprisoned herself for three weeks.

    But her youth caught him already in a liberated Paris. The writer Boris Vian and Sartre were some of her friends, and the latter, a philosopher, wrote in her honor in 1944, when her career was still taking off, the song “Dans la rue des blancs manteaux”.

    Gréco was a figure in the cabaret Le Tabou, where she met the American composer and trumpeter Miles Davis. She was 22 and he was 23, and they were lovers for years. The father of her only daughter, however, was actor Philippe Lemaire, to whom she was married from 1953 to 1956.

    Her next husband, from 1966 to 1977, was fellow actor Michel Piccoli, and her third and last union, with the French pianist Gérard Jouannest, lasted 30 years, from 1988 to 2018.

    She recorded her first album, “Je suis comme je suis”, in 1951, and her consecration came in 1954, when she first set foot in the Olympia venue in Paris.

    Hollywood career
    Gréco, who acknowledged having been a woman “ahead of her time”, although she tried to escape the scandal, allowed herself to be tempted by the cinema on both sides of the Atlantic.

    He commanded Jean Cocteau in 1950 with “Orphée” and Jean Renoir in 1955 with “Elena et les hommes”, and in Hollywood he also worked with other greats of the seventh art, such as Henry King (“The sun also rises” , 1957) or John Huston (“The roots of heaven, 1958), in addition to sharing the bill with Orson Welles in” Crack in the Mirror “(1960).

    “I have not had a normal life at all,” she acknowledged in 2016 in an interview in the cultural weekly “Télérama”.

    She by then she was about to turn 89 years old, and yet she claimed not to be aware of the passage of time.

    “I don’t have time to watch myself grow old! I am very proud, but I have no vanity. I got on stage pushed by others, I sang as if I was acting, it became a reason for life, and I spent my life making progress. I have had a crazy luck and a very particular existence “, he assured.

    Her death coincided this Wednesday with that of another symbol of French culture, in her case of the kitchen: the legendary chef Pierre Troisgros, one of the creators of “nouvelle cuisine”, who died at 92.

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