Serge Gainsbourg

Always a controversial figure, Serge Gainsbourg was a multi-platform artist working in music, literature and music... and ruffled the feathers of polite French society at almost every turn. He's best remembered for Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus, a Number 1 hit in 1969 with his young English wife, the actress Jane Birkin (but originally recorded with Brigitte Bardot), which was widely banned and caused an outrage with its explicit sexual lyrics and sound effects. Gainsbourg was brought up in Paris by Russian Jewish parents traumatised by the Nazi occupation of France and struggled in his early career as a failed painter, playing piano in bars to pay the rent. He began to adopt the old French 'chanson' approach, first achieving success when his song Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son became the 1965 Luxembourg entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, performed by France Gall. Gainsbourg wrote another hit for Gall - Les Soucettes - but the outcry aroused by the song's sexual innuendo was a taste of things to come. He wrote songs for various other artists, including Francoise Hardy and, after the success of Je T'aime, he narrated a concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson about a tragic love affair. Gainsbourg followed it in 1975 with another concept album Rock Around The Bunker and continued to experiment with other styles, including a reggae version of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, which created more outrage and several death threats. He also wrote various movie soundtracks, directed four films, wrote one novel and continued to shock with his erratic behaviour on a series of TV appearances before he died of a heart attack in 1991.

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