More Greco

Guestposter Mark has an update on Juliette Gréco this summer:

juliette-greco-jpg_10297Juliette Gréco does not do retirement. ‘Retraite, c’est un terme militaire pour moi’ she retorts. And she can suddenly lose 40 years, as here at the Festival de Ramatuelle on the Côte d’Azur on 7 August.
At the end of a typically sharp performance of Leo Ferré’s ‘Jolie Môme’, the white light on her fades and for a second she loses four decades from her face – looking not 86 but perhaps 44, La Grande Sophie’s age today. Freeze the Youtube film and click forward slowly from 2min 42sec and what no still photograph could capture is on Filles Sourires.

Juliette also sang ‘La Javanaise’, and we can see the stress that caused her to retire after an hour suffering from heat stroke, as reported in ‘Le Figaro’ the next day.

In her heyday JG only sang for 45 minutes plus encore. So to perform for hour in August heat would tax anyone at 26, let alone 86. Yet a week later she was back on stage at the Festival Musicalarue de Luxey, in Les Landes.

One impressive yet little-known Gréco song, difficult to do on stage because it needs an orchestra, is now on the web : ‘Et là, t’y crois’, from a 1993 album. The magnificent arrangement of Etienne Roda-Gill and Julien Clerc’s lyric is by Jean Claude Petit. The lyrics are not long, but stretch wonderfully for 4 minutes. I have used my Youtube channel to put them into two comments boxes below the Youtube screen picture.


The idea looks so simple: ask a bunch of songwriters to compose a song about every Parisian arrondissement, then have famous actresses, singers and filles sourires favourites sing those songs. A female ode to the eternal city… I wish I came up with the idea, but alas, it was Nicolas Boualami Gaubiac who deserves all credit.

The result is a project called “ElleSonParis”. And the result is as exciting as it sounds

The songwriters are big names like Alex Beaupain, Thomas Roussel, Philippe Bresson, La Grande Sophie and Alain Chamfort. And what about the line-up! We have Juliette Gréco (!), Jane Birkin (!) Charlotte Rampling and Hanna Schygulla on one side and Zaza Fournier, Adrienne Pauly, Agnès Jaoui, Elisa Tovati, Irène Jacob and more on the other.

“ElleSonParis” is a musical tour through the arrondissements of Paris. They pay tribute to the Paris’ neighborhoods, all with their different character and own history.
Some of the songs are a bit so-so (one is not better than the high school musical level, but I won’t tell your which one…), but in general it is very nice trip into the City of Light.

Jane Birkin sings a song for the 16th arrondissement. A sober song with some with piano (or is it a  harpsichord?) called “5, Avenue Marceau”. Just in case you wonder: that was the home address of.. Yves Saint Laurent. And Chez Régine? We’ve all been there, no?

Jane Birkin – 5, Avenue Marceau
Adrienne Pauly – Chez Régine

Sexiest Women in French Music Today: Beyond Category

Countdown done, everything finished, and now you know ’em all. Almost. The FS Team chose to choose The One. The hors catégorie girl. We talked Ludivine, discussed Bardot, and of course everybody at FS loves Jane. But beyond category means something different, something that distills myth and magic, someone who transcends time, style, beauty and, of course, ultimate sexiness.

„Jeez“, my friend Matthias says. „I recall vividly how I danced with a fellow lawyer to Déshabillez-moi at his farewell party, and afterwards I had to run to the loo to rinse my mouth, since we had kissed to the final chord. That’s what Juliette Gréco does to you.“ In the beginning, she didn’t even need a voice. Boris Vian, ruling prince of St. Germain, was completely enchanted by the silence of the chain-smoking beauty with the long black hair and the cool black look, and stellar writers Jacques Prévert, François Mauriac or Raymond Queneau wrote lyrics just to hear her sing – she had „millions of poems in her voice“, as existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre tried to emcompass her magnetism. Never being part of France’s huge Babe Squad, Gréco redefined the concept of the female self, and en passant the idea of chanson. In 1959, only 32 years old, she invited a then quite unknown songwriter to her house: Serge Gainsbourg, who was so nervous that he spilled the whiskey she offered him, and couldn’t get out a single coherent sentence. Soon after he wrote Les Amours Perdues, Accordéon and La Javanaise for her, perhaps his finest songs. Better than anyone else, Gréco knew that it was all about finding a voice. That’s what she did for herself, for Serge, and for French song.

Juliette Gréco – Valse de l’au-revoir
Juliette Gréco – Mirabeau sous le pont

When Gréco Met Apollinaire

Certainly Juliette Gréco’s new record is a must-have. It’s about, yes, bridges. Those places that span rivers, where you can meet other people or the Grim Reaper in case you prefer to jump over the railing. The probably finest song on Ca se traverse et c’est beau might be Mirabeau sous le pont, a clever, multi-layered hommage to the classic French poet, proto-surrealist and enfant terrible Guillaume Apollinaire, written by 80-years-old Jean-Claude Carrière, script writer of Bunuel’s Belle de Jour and 10000 other classics of the French silver screen. Of course, the song works like a movie. And surely it’s adult cinema.

Juliette Gréco – Mirabeau sous le pont

Une fille de 85 ans

Too often reduced to Deshabillez-moi, Juliette Gréco was not only the ultimate Existentialist poster girl of the late 40s, but also the most charismatic chanteuse of the post-Piaf chanson. She still is, her brand new album Ca se traverse et c’est beau featuring stunning lyrics by Amélie Nothomb and Jean-Claude Carrière, among others. Yesterday, the mysterious dark-haired girl who once was asked by Boris Vian why she never said a word, turned 85. Belated bon anniversaire, Muse, Amoureuse, Immortelle.

Juliette Gréco & Melody Gardot

The everlasting Mme Gréco (b. 1927) is back, with another album. Featuring younger stars, like Marc Lavoine, Féfé and blonde Jersey girl Melody Gardot. Together they sing Sous les ponts de Paris, a standard dating back to 1914. Ponts, or bridges, are the recurring theme on Ça ce traverse et c’est beau, with covers and new songs. Like fellow living chanson legend Charles Aznavour, her voice isn’t what it used to be – Gréco talks or growls more than she sings. Yet, she’s still standing. One has to bow.

Juliette Gréco & Melody Gardot – Sous les ponts de Paris

La Japonaise

You can hear a quite classy accordion player above, as well as a grande dame de la chanson, plus … Leslie Feist simultaneously impersonating Jane Birkin and German 80s airhead Nena: a cutting-edge mixture indeed, with Serge’s lyrics heading straight to Fukushima.

Mayra Andrade

The Sunday Times called her „voice from Cape Verde“, possibly due to the fact that Mayra Andrade sings a lot of songs in Cape Verdean Creole, though she’s born in Cuba and grew up in Senegal, Angola, and Germany. Her records smell a bit of the well-designed eau de toilette of all those other industry working girls mixing world music with those certain hints of Brazilian folklore, body lotion fado, and authentic leather sofa jazz/ethno feel that probably will earn her a guest job on Charlie Haden’s next „Sophisticated Ladies“ volume. She’s got taste anyway: Her new live album, Studio 105, features also Serge’s La Javanaise, written originally for Juliette Gréco in 1959, in a kind of worn-out sugardaddy’s club version, definitely not as intimate as it tries to be, but actually quite a winning one.

Mayra Andrade – La Javanaise