Singer Juliette Gréco:

Despite her talent, Juliette Gréco would have remained one of many in her field had she not been in the right historical context at the right time.

The late Chansonnière was a black angel of post-war happiness. In Paris and far beyond it suddenly became quieter on Wednesday evening.

The voice of a time that has become historic, which once exchanged views with Sartre, Camus, Prévert, Boris Vian and which still appeared on stage until four years ago, has finally fallen silent.

The last thread with the years of existentialism of Saint-Germain-des-Prés has been torn, the jolt into the present has taken place. What remains are the memories that now swell from everywhere.

Juliette Gréco was by no means just a voice that deepened her young girl undertones over the years.

Born in Montpellier in 1927, she was a luminous figure of the night, a black angel of post-war happiness, embodied liberté.

Despite her talent, she would have remained one of many in her field had she not been in the right historical context at the right time and sparked off with it.

For the twenty-year-old with a shattered childhood that was anything but natural. Her mother was a resistance fighter, lived underground, and came to the Ravensbrück concentration camp with Juliette's older sister.

Juliette herself escaped deportation because of her age. She wanted to be a dancer or actress and before the end of the war she appeared as an extra in the world premiere of Paul Claudel's modern baroque drama "Der Seidene Schuh".

The decisive context for them was then the Parisian chanson cellar "Le Tabou", where it began in 1946 and in which the then legendary couple of philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir heard it one evening.

And was impressed. Sartre invited the young woman to his apartment the next day and offered her a few poems to set and perform, including one by him.

She turned down and opted for "Si Tu imagines" by Raymond Queneau and "L'éternel féminin" by Jules Laforgue.

They were set to music by Joseph Kosma. It was her first great success. But the path was taken. The "Tabou" with the muse singing himself became the anchor point of a new attitude towards life. "Zazou" was what some called it.

Intellectually inspired and always politically coloured:

"La Fourmi" by Robert Desnos and "Les feuilles mortes" by Jacques Prévert were added later. And the writers vied with each other to write lyrics for them.

With the tours to America in the early 1950s came international fame and the acquaintance of Miles Davis and Orson Welles.

Juliette Gréco was the Parisienne for half the world and henceforth for life. In contrast to the other great, Edith Piaf, she was the one with an intellectual touch and always tinged with politics.

In Paris itself, the first appearance came at the Olympia and soon there followed film offers, "The Roots of Heaven" by John Huston or "Crack in the Mirror" by Richard Fleischer.

Return to the chanson stage with Jacques Brel, Guy Béart, Serge Gainsbourg, appearances in the popular television series Belphegor or the Fantom of the Louvre,

Some star banter in relevant magazines and at the same time continued political engagement with occasional free appearances for the comrades, with repeated changes of producers: Such a mixture could easily have put the career in the wake of routine.

But Gréco always knew how to find and reinvent himself.

The 1966 marriage to Michel Piccoli became her most enduring and glamorous. Together with him, the singer called for the election of the presidential candidate François Mitterrand and seven years later it worked.

With her memoir "Jujube", at the age of 54, she took stock of her career and life. But that was far from over.

The singer became her own myth:

The rhythm sometimes slowed down. The big chanson stages of the world and again and again the Olympia were open to those who were always dressed in black with long-drawn almond eyes.

The singer became her own myth, which she played just as well as the young talent back then. After a few rather modest attempts with her own texts, she stuck to the alternating generations of writers for her albums.

The great names of the post-war period were followed by Jean-Claude Carrière, then Marie Nimier, Jean Rouaud and Gérard Manset.

This openness to changing epochs until practically the end was one of their great qualities. Constant image cultivation and openness to the present were among her secrets.

With unmistakable melancholy, however, the awareness in her songs lately sounded that she herself has become as much an emblem of the past as the Parisian quarter, with which her art is inseparably linked.

For years she had been complaining that in Saint-Germain-des-Prés the fashion stores, bookstores and the international luxury-class have replaced the traditional intellectual circles.

This led to the unimaginable situation that the singer stayed away from her city more and more often. She died in the south of France at the age of 93.


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