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French Music: Juliette Gréco

Born 7 February 1927 in Montpelier, South of France, Juliette Gréco has had the sort of life that you think only exists in books and films.

After an austere upbringing with her grandparent and at a strict convent school, the 16 year old moved to Paris with her mother and sister and took up dance and singing classes but was forced to return to the south of France when war broke out. Her mother became an active member of the Resistance and was arrested by the Gestapo and in 1943 Gréco returned to Paris to stay with her teacher.

She enrolled in drama classes and began hanging out in cafés on the Left Bank, exploring the rich intellectual and Bohemian life of the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.  Musicians, artists, writers, intellectuals and poets hung out in the area, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were frequently seen and Jazz clubs ruled the music scene for the bohemian groups.

After the war years, Paris burst into life and Gréco rose to fame as the face of France’s New Bohemianism and encouraged by her friends she launched a singing career. Her friends wrote songs and lyrics for her but her new vocation was slow to take off. She gained popularity after appearing in the well-received film Orphée in 1949 and after she released a single “Je Suis Comme Je Suis” (I am what I am) she never looked back.

She continued performing until her death in 2020.

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