Serge Gainsbourg

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Serge Gainsbourg

Serge Gainsbourg, born Lucien Ginzburg, (April 2, 1928March 2, 1991) was a poet, singer-songwriter, actor and director.

He was born in Paris, France the son of Jewish Russian parents. He had a daughter, Charlotte, with Jane Birkin; and a son, Lulu, with his last partner Bambou (Pauline Von Paulus, related to Friedrich Paulus).

Lucien Ginzburg wanted to be a painter but earned his living as a piano player in bars.

His early songs were influenced by Boris Vian. Gainsbourg wanted to free himself from what he considered "old-fashioned" chanson, and explore other musical grounds, influenced especially by British and American pop. During his career, he wrote the soundtracks for more than 40 movies.

He directed himself four movies: Je t'aime... moi non plus, Equateur, Charlotte For Ever and Stan The Flasher.

His most famous song, "Je t'aime... moi non plus", was vocally very erotic. Originally recorded with Brigitte Bardot, it was released with a different female singer, future girlfriend Jane Birkin, when Bardot backed out. While considered by Gainsbourg as the "ultimate love song" it was considered too "hot", the song was censored in various countries and in France even the toned-down version was suppressed. Even the Vatican made a public disclaimer pointing the song as offensive. Its notoriety led to it reaching no. 1 in the UK chart.

His most influential work Histoire de Melody Nelson was released in 1971. This concept-album arranged by Jean-Claude Vannier was mainly based on Nabokov's novel Lolita. It has proven influential with artists such as Air, David Holmes and Beck.

In 1975, he released the album Rock Around the Bunker a rock album entirely written on the subject of the Nazis. Gainsbourg used black humour, as he and his family suffered during World War II. Gainsbourg himself had worn the yellow star as a child in Paris.

Next year saw the release of another major work L'Homme la Tte de Chou (Cabbage-Head Man) featuring Marilou as a new character and somptuous orchestral themes.

In Jamaica in 1978 he recorded a reggae version of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise", "Aux Armes et cetera", with Robby Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar and Rita Marley. This song earned him death threats from right wing veterans of the Algerian War of Independence. Shortly afterwards, Gainsbourg bought the original manuscript of La Marseillaise. He was able to reply to his critics that his version was in fact closer to the original as the manuscript clearly shows the words "Aux armes et ctera..." for the chorus.

Next year saw him in the new look of Gainsbarre officially introduced in the song "Ecce Homo". During this last decade he made a lot of TV appearances devoted to his controversial sense of humour and provocation. During this period he released Love On The Beat and his last studio album You're Under Arrest (which saw him adopt his style to the hip-hop genre), as well as two live recordings.

Towards the end of his life, Gainsbourg became a regular feature on French TV, with perhaps the most famous outburst coming when he told Whitney Houston "I want to fuck you", on Saturday evening Michel Drucker's show. His songs became increasingly eccentric, ranging from the anti-drug "Les Enfants de la Chance" to the questionable duet with Charlotte "Lemon Incest (Un zeste de citron)". The title of the latter demonstrates Gainsbourg's love of puns, which could sometimes be painful "Bowie, Beau oui comme Bowie".

Gainsbourg died on March 2, 1991 of a heart-attack and was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, in Paris. His home at the well-known address 5bis rue de Verneuil is still totally covered by grafitti and poems.

One of the most frequent interpreters of Gainsbourg's songs was British singer Petula Clark, whose success in France was propelled by her recordings of his tunes. In 2003, she wrote and recorded "La Chanson de Gainsbourg" as a tribute to the composer of some of her biggest hits.


Brief notes

  • "Poupe de cire, poupe de son"' for the Eurovision Song Contest. (It was covered in English as "A Lonely Singing Doll" by British teen idol Twinkle.)
  • The first English-language version of a Gainsbourg song was Dionne Warwick's 1965 version of "Mamadou".
  • Australian rock musician Mick Harvey released two CDs worth of Gainsbourg's songs translated into English.
  • France Gall was horrified to discover the sexual double-meaning of the lyrics to "Les Sucettes". Les Sucettes tells about a little girl with a strong taste for lollipops — a perfectly innocent song suitable for small children. However, one can also interpret it as a description of fellatio.
  • The controversial video featuring a half-naked Gainsbourg and daughter Charlotte for the song "Lemon Incest."
  • Bob Marley was furious when he discovered Gainsbourg made Rita Marley sing erotic lyrics.
  • Towards the end of his life, Gainsbourg used to show up drunk and unshaven on stage
  • He once burned a 500 French franc bill on TV to protest heavy taxation


  • 1958: Du chant la une
  • 1959: Disque N2
  • 1961: L'tonnant Serge Gainsbourg
  • 1962: Disque N4
  • 1963: Gainsbourg Confidentiel
  • 1964: Gainsbourg Percussions
  • 1967: Anna
  • 1967: Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot: Bonnie & Clyde
  • 1968: Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot: Initials B.B.
  • 1969: Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg
  • 1971: Histoire de Melody Nelson
  • 1974: Vu de l'extrieur
  • 1975: Rock around the bunker
  • 1976: L'homme tte de chou
  • 1979: Aux armes et ctera
  • 1980: Enregistrement public au Thtre Le Palace
  • 1981: Mauvaises nouvelles des toiles
  • 1984: Love on the beat
  • 1985: Serge Gainsbourg live (Casino de Paris)
  • 1987: You're under arrest
  • 1988: Le Znith de Gainsbourg
  • 1989: De Gainsbourg Gainsbarre (Box Set)
  • 2001: Gainsbourg Forever (Integral Box Set)
  • 2001: Le Cinma de Gainsbourg (Box Set)

Noted songs

  • "Aux armes et caetera"
  • "Baby Pop"
  • "Bonnie and Clyde"
  • "Couleur Caf"
  • "Hold Up"
  • "Initials B.B."
  • "Je t'aime... moi non plus"
  • "La Gadoue"
  • "La Javanaise"
  • "Lemon Incest"
  • "Les Incorruptibles"
  • "Les Sucettes"
  • "Lola Rastaquouere"
  • "New York U.S.A."
  • "Poupe de cire, poupe de son"

External links

Template:Livedde:Serge Gainsbourg fr:Serge Gainsbourg he:סרז' גינסבורג it:Serge Gainsbourg ja:セルジュ・ゲンスブール pt:Serge Gainsbourg


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