Juliette Grco remembered by Abd al Malik | Music – The Guardian

Posted: December 19, 2020 at 11:00 am


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Juliette Grco and I may have been born almost 50 years apart but she had always been part of me. When we were kids growing up on a housing estate in Strasbourg, my mother had a ritual: on Sundays, she would play French chanson for us. Lo Ferr, Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, Georges Brassens, and Juliette Grco. She was the only female artist in the pack so not only did her mysterious voice have a distinctive impact on me, I also assumed she was a tough cookie with character. In my young boys mind, she was their equal, a great artist, period. Years later, as I was relaxing at home in the midst of recording my second solo album, I switched on telly and here she was with her husband Grard Jouannest who had been Jacques Brels pianist and composer, and I thought how amazing it would be to meet them. The following morning, I told the sound engineer at my record company. It just so happened that he had recently worked with Juliette Grco. He was our go-between. I sent her my work and she agreed to meet. One day, she opened the door of her house near Paris to me and we became friends for the next 13 years, spending Christmas and holidays together.

When Grco met new people, what she was interested in was to find a poetical connection with them. No poetry, no friendship. It didnt matter that you were from a different milieu, a different country, a different culture, or belonged to a different musical genre, generation, political family or even that you shared the same convictions. The only thing that she cared about was poetry, and style. And a love for words and the written text.

In a way, this mirrored my own story. One of my headmistresses noticed my love for books from an early age and fed my passion. She also convinced my mother to take me to a better school and helped me getting a scholarship. Literature and poetry made me who I am. Albert Camus in particular played a great role in shaping the young rebellious man I was. When Camuss daughter asked me to perform for the centenary of his birth in 2013, I invited Juliette, who had known him well, to be with me on stage.

I asked Juliette about her love affair with Miles Davis in the late 1940s, early 1950s. When Jean-Paul Sartre asked them why they didnt marry, Miles answered: Because I love her too much for that. If she had followed him back to the US, she would have been considered there as a negros whore, she confided to me. I am currently adapting their love story for the screen.

I consider Juliette as the last interprte of our times. Somebody who completely appropriated the words of another to make it her own. It was extraordinary to see. Suddenly, your words were hers, and hers only. She had a way of delivering words that was unique: it was both very powerful and moving to witness.

She was both a godmother and teacher to me. Thanks to her, I rediscovered writers such as Boris Vian and Louis Aragon, people she had known well. She had a way of explaining intricate concepts with simplicity.

We were friends right up to the very last weeks of her life. She had this extraordinary elegance, both moral and physical, even when she had become rather frail. Its her elegance in all things that I shall most vividly miss.

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Juliette Grco remembered by Abd al Malik | Music - The Guardian

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December 19th, 2020 at 11:00 am

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