‘Learn to say no’: Juliette Greco to as­pir­ing per­form­ers


As she em­barks on the last tour of a more than six-decade ca­reer that be­gan in post-war Paris, iconic French singer Juliette Greco had some part­ing ad­vice for young per­form­ers: “Learn to say no.”

The 88-year-old star of “la chan­son fran­caise,” famed for her per­for­mances of texts penned by the likes of philoso­pher Jean-Paul Sartre and poet Jac­ques Pre­vert, be­gan her farewell tour Fri­day at the Print­emps de Bourges mu­sic fes­ti­val.

Clad, as al­ways, in a black dress, with her eyes rimmed with kohl, Greco opened the fes­ti­val in cen­tral France.

The ef­fort left her so drained she cut short her per­for­mance by two tracks.

At a press con­fer­ence Satur­day she in­sisted how­ever that she was “well,” and just a lit­tle tired the pre­vi­ous day af­ter tour­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion de­voted to her at the Bourges fes­ti­val that left her feel­ing “over­whelmed”.

Asked what spurred her to con­tinue per­form­ing, the oc­to­ge­nar­ian style icon, who was a stal­wart of the Left Bank Parisian scene of the 1950s and 60s, cited a life­long pas­sion “for the au­di­ence, for po­ets, writ­ers and mu­si­cians.”

“It’s a very good mo­ti­va­tion, it spares you a lot of hor­ri­ble stuff, like, for ex­am­ple, singing a song you don’t want to sing just for the money,” said Greco, who had a long-run­ning af­fair with jazz mu­si­cian Miles Davis and counted Sartre and fem­i­nist au­thor Si­mone de Beau­voir among her friends.

Young peo­ple, Greco said, should “know how to say no.”

“From there on ev­ery­thing place.”

In an in­ter­view ear­lier in the week with AFP, the singer whose hits in­cluded the ‘Jolie mome’ (cute kid) by Leo Ferre and ‘La ja­vanaise’ by Gains­bourg, was em­phatic that this would be her last tour.

“I’m re­nounc­ing the thing that is dear­est to me, which is es­sen­tial for me, but I want to go with dig­nity and as much el­e­gance as pos­si­ble,” said the woman whose gamine good looks were im­mor­tal­ized by pho­tog­ra­phers such as Henri Cartier-Bres­son and Robert Dois­neau.

“I won’t want to leave di­min­ished,” Greco stressed. “Plus, I’m a woman...men are for­given for age­ing, not women.”



The singer twice mar­ried ac­tors, first Philippe Le­maire and then Michel Pic­coli.

She will be ac­com­pa­nied by her third hus­band, pi­anist Ger­ard Jouannest, on her year-long tour which in­cludes over 20 con­certs in France and abroad.

Her next per­for­mance takes her to Tel Aviv on May 4.

The pro-Pales­tinian move­ment for boy­cotts, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions against Is­rael (BDS) had urged the singer, whose mother and older sis­ter were de­ported from Nazi-oc­cu­pied France dur­ing World War II for their role in the Re­sis­tance, to cancel her Is­raeli fix­ture.

In mak­ing the ap­peal, the BDS cam­paign re­called Greco’s own “acts of re­sis­tance”, in­clud­ing singing anti-mil­i­tarist songs at a con­cert in Chile dur­ing the dic­ta­tor­ship of Au­gusto Pinochet.

Greco, who has al­ways prided her­self on her in­de­pen­dence, said she was in­clud­ing Is­rael out of a “duty to re­mem­ber”.

Fur­ther­more, she told AFP: “It’s im­por­tant to go to places with which you have pro­found dif­fer­ences of opin­ion.

“You have to go ev­ery­where, it would be cow­ardice not to do it.”

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