Juliette Gréco, existentialist muse, queen of the chanson and goddess of French culture, dies

Juliette Gréco, existentialist muse, queen of the chanson and goddess of French culture, dies

His life has been the summary of music, cinema and intellectual life in Paris throughout the second half of the 20th century. He surrounded himself with philosophers, writers and painters, and the greatest composers gave him their songs to be immortalized

Juliette Gréco, existentialist muse, queen of the chanson and goddess of French culture, dies

In 1949, when Miles Davis saw Juliette Gréco among the select audience who had attended his first concert in Paris, which also included Charlie Parker , he could not suppress the fascination her presence provoked – “long black hair, a face beautiful, petite, stylized “; This is how he described it in his autobiography. Davis asked who he was, a question that, at the time, only an outsider would ask. “She's one of those existentialists, you know,” a friend replied. At that time, it was the most useful description to identify that young woman who rubbed shoulders with philosophers, artists and other intellectuals. To the concert, she had been accompanied by Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre .

But Gréco was much more than the muse of the existentialists. She had risen as one of the recognizable icons of postwar Paris and its reborn cultural life after Hitler's defeat , where cabaret survived in parallel with jazz, and she was beginning to emerge as a singer with a sweet voice and extraordinary ability to convey emotions. He was 22 years old and Davis explains that they immediately liked each other, were lovers and lived a few passionate months in that unrepeatable Paris, a relationship that broke when he had to return to New York .

By then, Gréco had already been one of Sartre's lovers, as would later be Albert Camus's . She and Sartre lived in different rooms in the same hotel, La Louisiane , on the left bank of the Seine, the center of the new bohemia, where she had moved from the south of France. There he also began to have a friendly and professional relationship with the writers Boris Vian and Anne-Marie Cazalis . They talked about poetry, music, philosophy, and stirred up the night in cabarets where he was already beginning to perform songs.

This is how he began his journey to consecrate himself not only as a leading figure in the rich course of French chanson -both in the intellectualized line of Brassens and Brel , as well as in the passionate and tormented line of Édith Piaf and Aznavou r-, but of the entire great extension of French popular culture of the following decades.

The death of Juliette Gréco at the age of 93, this Wednesday in Provence , is practically the closure of a unique and mighty cultural history of a Europe that no longer exists. Gréco shone in music by being the link between a great generation of writers who understood that song lyrics were also a form of literature – he was written by Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian and Jacques Prévert , among others – and notable composers of the transition from chanson to pop, like Serge Gainsbourg , who reserved for her one of his most accomplished creations, 'La javanaise'.

True to the spirit of the time, she also entered the art of acting and stood out as a film actress and, to a lesser extent, a theater actress. Whether in supporting or prominent roles, he was in the circles of Jean Cocteau (Orphée), Jean Renoir or Jean-Pierre Melville , and when the nouvelle vague broke out in Paris – implying a firm break with the previous generation of directors – he He went to make films in the United States, under the direction of John Huston, Henry King or Otto Preminger , for whom he starred in 'Bonjour tristesse', inspired by the book of another close friend of his intellectual circle, Françoise Sagan .

Gréco remained active, giving concerts and recording recitals – although above all collecting awards and distinctions – until 2015. His life was overflowing, and his commitment to music and communication with the public was never suspended, as it was from those artists who conceived work and life as the same thing.

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