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

By Anthony Lucas, AFP

BOURGES, France–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 falls into 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.