Juliette Gréco

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Juliette Gréco
Greco looking up from a microphone
Gréco in 1966
Background information
Born(1927-02-07)7 February 1927
Montpellier, France
Died23 September 2020(2020-09-23) (aged 93)
Ramatuelle, France
  • Singer
  • actress
Years active1946–2016

Juliette Gréco (French: [ʒyljɛt ɡʁeko]; 7 February 1927 – 23 September 2020) was a French singer and actress. Her best known songs are "Paris Canaille" (1962, originally sung by Léo Ferré), "La Javanaise" (1963, written by Serge Gainsbourg for Gréco) and "Déshabillez-moi" (1967). She often sang tracks with lyrics written by French poets such as Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian, as well as singers like Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour. Her 60-year career came to an end in 2015 when she began her last worldwide tour titled "Merci".

As an actress, Gréco played roles in films by French directors such as Jean Cocteau and Jean-Pierre Melville.

Early life[edit]

Juliette Gréco was born in Montpellier, France, to an absent Corsican father, Gérard Gréco; her mother Juliette Lafeychine (1899–1978) was from Bordeaux.[1] Her lineage hails in part from Greece. She did not receive love from her mother in her childhood and suffered from her harsh comments due to being an unwanted child, such as "You ain't my daughter. You're the child of rape".[2] She was raised by her maternal grandparents in Bordeaux with her older sister Charlotte. After the death of her grandparents, her mother took them to Paris. In 1938, she became a ballerina at the Opéra Garnier.

When World War II began, the family returned to the southwest of France. Gréco was a student at the Institut Royal d'éducation Sainte Jeanne d'Arc in Montauban. The Gréco family became active in the Resistance and her mother was arrested in 1943. The two sisters decided to move back to Paris but were captured and tortured by the Gestapo, then imprisoned in Fresnes Prison in September 1943.[3] Her mother and sister were deported to Ravensbrück while Juliette, being only 16, remained in prison for several months before being released.[4] After her release, she walked the eight miles back to Paris to retrieve her belongings from the Gestapo headquarters. Her former French teacher and her mother's friend, Hélène Duc, decided to take care of her.

In 1945, Gréco's mother and sister returned from deportation after the liberation of Ravensbrück by the Red Army. Gréco moved to Saint-Germain-des-Prés in 1945 after her mother moved to Indochina, leaving Gréco and her sister behind.[5]

Bohemian lifestyle[edit]

Gréco in 1955

Gréco became a devotee of the bohemian fashion of some intellectuals of post-war France. Duc sent her to attend acting classes given by Solange Sicard. She made her debut in the play Victor ou les Enfants au pouvoir in November 1946 and began to host a radio show dedicated to poetry.[6]

Gréco and Erskine Caldwell photographed by Emmy Andriesse in 1948

Her friend Jean-Paul Sartre installed her at the Hotel La Louisiane and commented that Greco had "millions of poems in her voice".[7] She was known to many of the writers and artists working in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, such as Albert Camus, Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian, thus gaining the nickname la Muse de l'existentialisme.[8]

Gréco spent the post-Liberation years frequenting the Saint-Germain-des-Prés cafes, immersing herself in political and philosophical bohemian culture. As a regular at music and poetry venues like Le Tabou on Rue Dauphine, she was acquainted with Jean Cocteau, and was given a role in Cocteau's film Orphée (1950).

Gréco in Amsterdam, 1962

She made her debut as a cabaret singer in the Parisian cabaret Le Bœuf sur le toit in 1949, performing the lyrics of a number of well-known French writers; Raymond Queneau's "Si tu t'imagines" was one of her earliest songs to become popular.

Film career[edit]

She made her film debut in Les frères Bouquinquant (1947) and appeared in several French films. When Darryl F. Zanuck saw her photo in Time, she was offered a role in The Sun Also Rises (1957), [9] and it led to other Hollywood-financed films.

Personal life[edit]

Gréco was married three times, to:

With Lemaire, she had a daughter, Laurence-Marie, born in 1954. Laurence-Marie Lemaire died from cancer in 2016 aged 62.[10]

In the year leading up to his death in January 1949, Gréco was the lover of married racing driver Jean-Pierre Wimille and suffered a miscarriage after his death.[11]

According to Spanish writer Manuel Vicent, Juliette Gréco was Albert Camus's lover.[12] She also was in relationships with French singer Sacha Distel and Hollywood producer Darryl F. Zanuck.[13][14]

In 1949, she began an affair with the American jazz musician Miles Davis.[15] In 1957, they decided to always be just lovers because their careers were in different countries and his fear of damaging her career by being in an interracial relationship.[16][17][18] They remained lovers and friends until his death in 1991.[19][18][16] Gréco also dated U.S. record producer Quincy Jones. According to Jones' autobiography, Davis was irritated with him for years when he found out.[20]

Gréco had three rhinoplasties; in Paris in 1953 and 1956, and in London in 1960.[21]

In September 1965, Gréco attempted suicide by an overdose of sleeping pills. She was found unconscious in her bathroom and taken to the hospital by Françoise Sagan.[22]

Gréco lived between Paris and Saint-Tropez.

A leftist, she supported François Mitterrand in the 1974 presidential election,[23] and was an initial investor in Minute, when it was mainly non-political and focused on the entertainment world.[24]

Gréco died on 23 September 2020 at the age of 93.[25][26]


The "Juliette Gréco" rose at the Roseraie de Bagatelle

Gréco was portrayed by actress Anna Mouglalis in the film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010).

Jean-Paul Sartre based the singer in his trilogy The Roads to Freedom (Les chemins de la liberté) on Gréco.[27]

An allusion to Gréco is made by English singer Ray Davies in the song "Art School Babe" from his album Storyteller.

"Michelle" by the Beatles was inspired by Gréco and the Parisian Left Bank culture. Paul McCartney said of the song: "We'd tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing. They'd all wear black turtleneck sweaters, it's kind of where we got all that from, and we fancied Juliette like mad. Have you ever seen her? Dark hair, real chanteuse, really happening. So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be 'Michelle'."[28]

John Lennon wrote in Skywriting by Word of Mouth: "I'd always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, dark-haired, high-cheek-boned, free-spirited artist à la Juliette Gréco."[29]

Marianne Faithfull said of Gréco: "When I was a young girl, Juliette Gréco was my absolute idol...She’s my role model for life. If I want to be anybody, I want to be Juliette Gréco."[30]

In 1999, a rose was named after her by Georges Delbard under the name of "Juliette Gréco".

On 23 September 2021, "Place Juliette Gréco" was inaugurated in Paris. It can be found beside the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.

For the Dior Fall/Winter 2023-2024 collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri paid tribute to Gréco.[31]



  • 1982: Jujube (published in French), Stock
  • 2012: Je suis faite comme ça, Flammarion

Notable songs[edit]

  • 1950: Si tu t'imagines: written by Raymond Queneau and composed by Joseph Kosma.
  • 1950: La Fourmi : written by Robert Desnos and composed by Joseph Kosma.
  • 1951: Je suis comme je suis : written by Jacques Prévert and composed by Joseph Kosma.
  • 1951: Les Feuilles mortes: from the movie Les Portes de la nuit, written by Jacques Prévert and composed by Joseph Kosma.
  • 1951: Sous le ciel de Paris: from the movie Sous le ciel de Paris : written by Jean Dréjac and composed by Hubert Giraud.
  • 1951: Je hais les dimanches: written by Charles Aznavour and composed by Florence Véran.
  • 1953: La Fiancée du pirate: extract from L'Opéra de quat'sous.
  • 1954: Coin de rue: written and composed by Charles Trenet.
  • 1955: Chanson pour l'Auvergnat: written and composed by Georges Brassens.
  • 1957: Musique Mécanique: written by Boris Vian and composed by André Popp.
  • 1957: La Complainte du téléphone: written by François Billetdoux and composed by André Popp.
  • 1959: De Pantin à Pékin : written by Pierre Delanoë and composed by André Popp.
  • 1959: Il était une oie : written and composed by Serge Gainsbourg.
  • 1960: Il n'y a plus d’après : written and composed by Guy Béart.
  • 1961: On n'oublie rien : written by Jacques Brel.
  • 1961: Jolie Môme: written and composed by Léo Ferré.
  • 1961: C'était bien (Le P'tit bal perdu): written by Robert Nyel and composed by Gaby Verlor.
  • 1961: Le Temps passé : written and composed by Georges Brassens.
  • 1961: Chandernagor : written and composed by Guy Béart.
  • 1962: Accordéon : written and composed by Serge Gainsbourg.
  • 1962: Paris Canaille  : written and composed by Léo Ferré.
  • 1963: La Javanaise : written and composed by Serge Gainsbourg.
  • 1966: Un petit poisson, un petit oiseau : written by Jean-Max Rivière and composed by Gérard Bourgeois.
  • 1967: Déshabillez-moi : written by Robert Nyel and composed by Gaby Verlor.
  • 1970: Les Pingouins : written and composed by Frédéric Botton.
  • 1971: La Chanson des vieux amants : written by Jacques Brel and composed by Gérard Jouannest.
  • 1971: J'arrive : written by Jacques Brel and composed by Gérard Jouannest.
  • 1972: Mon fils chante : written by Maurice Fanon and composed by Gérard Jouannest.
  • 1977: Non monsieur je n'ai pas vingt ans: written by Henri Gougaud and composed by Gérard Jouannest.
  • 1983: Le Temps des cerises : written by Jean Baptiste Clément and composed by Antoine Renard.
  • 1988: Ne me quitte pas : written and composed by Jacques Brel.
  • 2006: La Chanson de Prévert : written and composed by Serge Gainsbourg.
  • 2009: Le Déserteur: written and composed by Boris Vian.


TV show[edit]



  1. ^ Lafitte, Jacques Lafitte (2008). Qui est qui en France. p. 1045.
  2. ^ Combis, Hélène (7 February 2018). "Mort de Juliette Gréco : 'J'étais entièrement pourrie des choses les plus belles du monde, et je marchais nu-pieds'". franceculture. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Dites-moi". Sonuma.be.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Juliette Gréco : ' Cela fait 88 ans que je suis en guerre '". lemonde.fr. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  5. ^ POULANGES, Alain. "" GRÉCO JULIETTE (1927– ) ", Encyclopædia Universalis". universalis.fr.
  6. ^ "12 novembre 1946/Juliette Gréco dans Victor ou les enfants au pouvoir". Terresdefemmes. Retrieved 12 November 2005.
  7. ^ Sylvie-E. Saliceti. "Sartre par Gréco: Rue des Blancs-Manteaux" (in French). Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Juliette Greco dit pourquoi elle a été surnommée la muse de l'existentialisme" (in French). ina.fr. 13 July 1962.
  9. ^ Dictionnaire des Musiciens: Les Dictionnaires d'Universalis Encyclopaedia Universalis (27 October 2015)
  10. ^ "Juliette Gréco annonce la mort tragique de sa fille Laurence-Marie". Affinite le blog. 25 July 2020.
  11. ^ Gréco, Juliette (2012). Je suis faite comme ça. Flammarion. ISBN 9782081254893.
  12. ^ "Mitología" - Manuel Vicent Archived 22 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine. El País (22 April 2007).
  13. ^ Schwaab, Catherine. "Nécrologie de Jeanne Moreau". Paris Match: 64–65.
  14. ^ "Juliette GRECO et Darryl ZANUCK". ina.fr. 1998.
  15. ^ Gréco, Juliette (25 May 2006). "'Sartre asked Miles why we weren't married. He said he loved me too much to make me unhappy'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2006.
  16. ^ a b Davis, Miles (1989). Miles, the autobiography. Simon & Schuster. pp. 218. ISBN 978-0671725822.
  17. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (24 September 2020). "Juliette Gréco obituary". The Guardian.
  18. ^ a b Poirier, Agnès (17 February 2014). "Juliette Gréco: 'We were very naughty'". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "Interview of Miles Davis by Jean-Pierre Farkas (1973)". Lettres à Miles (2016).
  20. ^ Jones, Quincy (2001). Q : the autobiography of Quincy Jones. Doubleday. pp. 156. ISBN 9780767905107.
  21. ^ Dicale, Bertrand (2001). Juliette Greco : les vies d'une chanteuse. Paris: JC Lattes. pp. 240. ISBN 978-2702868188.
  22. ^ "Pills Fell Juliette Greco". The New York Times. 15 September 1965.
  23. ^ Proust, Raphaël (18 April 2012). "1974, Giscard peopolise la campagne de la droite". Slate.fr. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  24. ^ Forcari, Christophe (18 November 2013). ""Minute", ascenseur pour les fachos". Libération.fr (in French). Libération.
  25. ^ "La chanteuse Juliette Gréco est morte". Le Monde.fr. 23 September 2020. Retrieved 23 September 2020 – via Le Monde.
  26. ^ Morin, Fabien (23 September 2020). "Juliette Gréco est morte à l'âge de 93 ans". BFMTV. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  27. ^ Fiegel, Eddi (22 June 2000). "Sartre wrote songs for her. Miles Davis loved her. But no one ever upstaged her". The Guardian.
  28. ^ "Pete Doherty meets Paul McCartney". The Observer. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2007.
  29. ^ Lennon, John (1986). Skywriting by Word of Mouth. Harper and Row Publishers. p. 13. ISBN 978-0060914448.
  30. ^ Marianne Faithfull: memories, dreams and reflections. Harper Perennial. 2008. pp. 225–227. ISBN 978-0007245819.
  31. ^ "Pfw : Dior Fall Winter 2023 Collection". Design Scene. March 2023.
  32. ^ "Légion d'honneur: Simone Veil, Juliette Gréco, Michel Blanc promus le 14 juillet". nouvelobs.com. 14 July 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  33. ^ "Décret du 29 mars 2002 portant promotion et nomination". legifrance.gouv.fr. Retrieved 29 March 2002.
  34. ^ a b "Décret du 20 novembre 2015 portant élévation aux dignités de grand'croix et de grand officier". legifrance.gouv.fr.
  35. ^ "Décret du 15 mai 2006 portant promotion et nomination". legifrance.gouv.fr.
  36. ^ "Nomination dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres janvier 2016" (in French). Ministry of Culture and Communication of France. 31 March 2016. Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2016.


  • Anthony Beever and Artemis Cooper. Paris After the Liberation, 1944–1949. London: Penguin, 1994. pp. 315–320.
  • Boggio, Philippe. Boris Vian (pp. 152–154)
  • Davis, Miles, Miles (pp. 126–127)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]