Born 1927 in Montpellier, French singer and actress Juliette Gréco made her debut in the play Victor ou les Enfants au pouvoir in 1946 and began to host a radio show dedicated to poetry.
In 1949, Gréco began an affair with U.S. jazz musician Miles Davis. 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. They remained lovers and friends until his death in 1991.
In 1949, Gréco also made her debut as a cabaret singer in the Parisian cabaret Le Bœuf sur le toit, 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.
As an actress, Gréco played roles in films by French directors such as Jean Cocteau and Jean-Pierre Melville. Her sixty-year career finished in 2015 when she began her last worldwide tour titled “Merci”.
Gréco died on 23 September 2020 at the age of 93. In 1999, a rose was named after her by Georges Delbard under the name of “Juliette Gréco”.
“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 Gréco, 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’.”
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.”
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”.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see the beauty of young Juliette Gréco in the 1950s and 1960s.