With her rich musical and literary output, often evocative of post-war Paris, Juliette Gréco is seen today as an icon of French song.
During arrests and deportations by the Gestapo in 1943, Juliette Gréco became separated from her mother and sister, and later found herself alone and penniless in Paris. She was taken in and given a home by her French teacher, the actress Hélène Duc. This is when Juliette Gréco discovered the theatre and acting. She took a acting classes and was given a few small walk-on parts at the Comédie française. She became involved in the intellectual and artistic life of the Left Bank, more specifically the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where she met Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Boris Vian, Jean Cocteau and many other writers and American jazzmen, such as Miles Davis. With the help of these acquaintances, she was able to obtain a few roles in the theatre, and worked on a radio programme on poetry.
In 1949, she decided to start singing professionally when the Bœuf sur le Toit cabaret reopened. Immediately, numerous writers and poets wrote lyrics for her, including Raymond Queneau (Si tu t'imagines), Jules Lafforgue (L'Eternel féminin), Jacques Prévert (Les feuilles mortes) and even Serge Gainsbourg. Despite this popularity, Juliette Gréco struggled to make a name for herself in the shadow of the then star, Edith Piaf. In 1951, she cut her very first disc, Je suis comme je suis. She also did a large number of international tours, especially in America. While touring, she met the producer Darryl Zanuck, who offered her a chance to act in several films being made in Hollywood. In the 1960s, she resumed her singing career and, in 1968, sang one of her best-known titles, Déshabillez-moi, in which she plays on the sensual, mysterious side of her character.
After a career slowdown in the 1970s, she released another album in 1976 with music by Gérard Jouannest and lyrics by Pierre Seghers, Henri Gougaud, Serge Gainsbourg, Georges Coulonges, Jean Ferrat, Claude Lemesle and Boris Vian. She also sang texts written by Etienne Roda-Gil, Julien Clerc and the Brazilian songwriters Caetano Veloso and Joao Bosco. In 2003, she brought out another album, Aimez-vous les uns les autres, ou bien disparaissez, on which she reprised Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Claude Carrière and Aragon. Juliette Gréco is open and receptive to the young generation and features on many albums by contemporary French artists, such as Abd Al Malik.
Six landmark dates in the life of Juliette Greco:
1949: Was involved in reopening the cabaret Le Boeuf sur le Toit
1951: Received the Grand prix de la SACEM for the title Je hais les dimanches
1998: Decorated and made Officer of the Ordre national du Mérite
2007: Received a "Victoire d'honneur" award for her lifetime achievement in the Victoires de la musique
2012: Bertrand Delanoë presented her with the City of Paris "Grande Médaille de Vermeil"
2012: Made a Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French Ministry of Culture
Biography compiled from Radio France Musical Documentation (July 2014)