HOMAGE - Disappeared this Wednesday at the age of 93, Juliette Gréco leaves behind a demanding repertoire, which also speaks of the woman behind the icon.
On the occasion of his last concerts, his voice was murmured, declaiming the most beautiful pages of his repertoire like so many poems.
Long black silhouette with the doe's eye and velvet stamp, Juliette Gréco left this Wednesday at the age of 93, after a river career spanning eight decades.
A demanding performer, the lady of Saint-Germain-des-Prés sang the texts of some of the most famous French authors of the post-war period, including Raymond Queneau, Robert Desnos, Jacques Prévert, Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré or again Serge Gainsbourg.
"When I sing them, I am with them, I see them. They are there", she confided to the
Journal du Dimanche
in 2012. On the occasion of her disappearance, Europe 1 looks back on five songs, behind which the unusual course of a very great lady.
My son sings
, or Greco the rebellious
In 1972, this song composed by Maurice Fanon and Gérard Jouannest, Juliette Gréco's last husband, first seemed to refer to the dictatorship of the colonels which had settled in Greece five years earlier.
Especially since an accompaniment of guitars dresses it with all Mediterranean sounds.
But it is most certainly the Nazi Occupation that Juliette Gréco dreams of when she interprets it, a period that painfully marked her young years.
Born on February 7, 1927, she was not sixteen when her mother, engaged in the Resistance, was arrested in 1943. Arrested in turn with her sister, Juliette was questioned by the Gestapo, in the conditions that one imagines ... She will dare to slap her torturer.
"My son sings
For those who are dragged in the dark
On the floor of the last corridor
Her young age saved her from deportation, but she spent three months in prison.
When she left, Juliette Gréco was hosted by the actress Hélène Duc, before finding her mother and sister who had returned from the camps after the Liberation.
"Two living dead", she said to
, or Gréco la Parisienne
Juliette Gréco is not the first to sing this text by Jean Dréjac, written in 1951, but it is certainly her interpretation that has remained as the most emblematic.
Evoking the Ile Saint-Louis and Notre-Dame de Paris, she walks the listener to the sound of the accordion through a thousand-year-old Paris, city of possibilities and love.
She also sings the festive effervescence that wins the post-war capital.
"A seated philosopher
Two musicians a few onlookers
Then people by the thousands
Under the Paris sky
Until the evening will sing"
How not to also think of Saint-Germain des Prés - which she cites in particular in
There is no longer after
- and where, at 18, Juliette Gréco walks her androgynous look.
"Men's shirts, men's jackets, rolled-up pants ... I was a funny character, different, disturbing. Sometimes I got hateful looks, but my appearance started a fashion," he explained. -she one day at
The smoky nights of Saint-Germain then vibrate to the sound of jazz.
She soon rubbed shoulders with Anne-Marie Cazalis and Boris Vian, but also caught the eye of existentialist Paris: she was credited with a relationship with Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre offered her one of her first songs,
Rue des Blancs- Coats
I am as I am
, or Greco the lover
The singer has always claimed her freedom to love, indifferent to the shackles of morality and what will be said.
Je suis comme je suis
, Prévert's poem set to music by Joseph Kosma, Juliette Gréco, ten years before the start of the sexual revolution, assumes the fleeting feeling of love and the possibility of disposing of her body accordingly.
"I love the one who loves me
Is it my fault
If it is not the same
that I love every time?"
Passing loves or loves that last, Juliette Gréco has never denied the list of men who have lived through her life.
In 1949, she fell madly in love with Miles Davis, passing through Paris.
"With him, I lived a violent, strong love affair that lasted her entire life," she told
The trumpeter hesitates for a time to marry her, but finally recoils at the idea of making her live the life of a white woman married to a black man in segregationist America.
In 1953, she married the actor Philippe Lemaire, whom she had met on set.
They divorced in 1956, after the birth of a daughter.
A romance later with the legendary producer Darryl Zanuck, she fell in 1965 in the arms of Michel Piccoli, met at a dinner.
Their marriage lasts eleven years.
Finally, in 1988 she married her pianist and composer Gérard Jouannest.
A 30-year union, only interrupted in 2018 by the death of the author of
Do not leave me
La Chanson des vieux amants,
by Jacques Brel.
, or the unexpected Greco
Juliette Gréco surprises her world when she accepts in 1967 to sing this text by Robert Nyel, initially written for a stripper.
The scandalous success surrounding the song, initially censored by several radio stations and the ORTF, contributes to making it a hit that the singer will take up even in English, Italian and German.
proves that Juliette Gréco has never been afraid to shake up her repertoire.
Only one requirement, it seems: the literary quality of what is offered to him.
In 2008, she recorded an astonishing duet,
Romeo and Juliet
, with rapper Abd Al Malik.
Her side steps even push her to leave the song.
She thus appears in around thirty films, notably in front of the camera of Jean-Pierre Melville, John Huston or Anatole Litvak.
But it is his performance in 1965 in the soap opera by Claude Barma,
Belphégor or the Phantom of the Louvre
, which undoubtedly left the greatest impression on the public.
For weeks, the French hold their breath before the occult adventures of the young woman, possessed by the spirit of an ancient god.
A role all in mysteries that befits the singer perfectly.
, or Greco the inspiration
Juliette Gréco does not forget that Boris Vian and Jean-Paul Sartre accompanied her debut.
Once the consecration came, she also enjoys playing the discoverer of talent, and offers her patronage to young artists.
In 1953, Jacques Brel, still completely unknown, sent her
Le Diable, which
she agreed to record.
An unwavering friendship then quickly binds the two artists.
She paid tribute to him again in 2013, with her last studio album: Gréco chante Brel.
Another stranger, who has become a sacred monster, and with whom Juliette Gréco played the good fairies: Serge Gainsbourg.
By writing him the intoxicating
, the musician signed in 1963 one of his first great successes.
He offers her this text after a particularly watered dinner at her place.
And after ?
Nothing more, has always assured the singer.
"A song happened ... and not the least."
Contrary to what its title suggests,
La Javanaise is
not inspired by a dance, but by a slang game very fashionable in the 1950s - "le Javanais" - around the alternation of vowels and consonants.
Beyond the stylistic banter, Juliette Gréco's deep voice and deliciously dragging diction make her a height of sensuality.
"I think I am a privileged author since she sang to me, and I think that there is not an author worthy of the name, or at least having a little bit of literary character, who did not wish write for her, "Serge Gainsbourg had welcomed.