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Serge Gainsbourg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg par Claude Truong-Ngoc 1981.jpg
Gainsbourg in 1981
Lucien Ginsburg

(1928-04-02)2 April 1928
Died2 March 1991(1991-03-02) (aged 62)
Paris, France
Other names
  • Julien Grix
  • Gainsbarre
  • Music artist
  • songwriter
  • pianist
  • poet
  • painter
  • screenwriter
  • writer
  • actor
  • director
Years active1957–1991
Elisabeth "Lize" Levitsky
(m. 1951; div. 1957)
Béatrice Pancrazzi
(m. 1964; div. 1966)
Children4, including Charlotte
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • guitar
Labels (Universal Music Group)
Associated actsBrigitte Bardot
Charlotte Gainsbourg
France Gall
Alain Goraguer
WebsiteOfficial website from Universalmusic

Serge Gainsbourg (French: [sɛʁʒ ɡɛ̃zbuʁ] (About this soundlisten); born Lucien Ginsburg;[4] 2 April 1928 – 2 March 1991)[1] was a French musician, singer-songwriter, author, filmmaker and actor.[5] Regarded as the most important figure in French pop whilst alive, he was renowned for often provocative and scandalous releases which caused uproar in France, dividing its public opinion,[1][6] as well as his diverse artistic output, which ranged from his early work in jazz, chanson, and yé-yé to later efforts in rock, funk, reggae, and electronica.[7] Gainsbourg's varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize, although his legacy has been firmly established and he is often regarded as one of the world's most influential popular musicians.[8]

His lyrical works incorporated wordplay, with humorous, bizarre, provocative, sexual, satirical or subversive overtones. Gainsbourg wrote over 550 songs,[9][10] which have been covered more than 1,000 times by a range of artists.[11] Since his death from a second heart attack in 1991, Gainsbourg's music has reached legendary stature in France, and he has become one of the country's best-loved public figures.[12] He has also gained a cult following in the English-speaking world with chart success in the United Kingdom and the United States with "Je t'aime... moi non plus" and "Bonnie and Clyde", respectively.


1928–1956: Early years

Born in Paris on 2 April 1928, Gainsbourg was the son of Jewish Ukrainian migrants, Joseph Ginsburg (27 March 1896, in Feodosia, Russian Empire — 22 April 1971, in Paris) and Olga[a] (née Besman; 15 January 1894, in Odessa, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) – 16 March 1985, in Paris), who fled to Paris via Istanbul after the 1917 Russian Revolution.[13] Joseph Ginsburg was a classically trained musician whose profession was playing the piano in cabarets and casinos; he taught his children—Gainsbourg and his twin sister Liliane—to play the piano.[9] Gainsbourg's childhood was profoundly affected by the occupation of France by Germany during World War II. The identifying yellow star that Jews were required to wear haunted Gainsbourg; in later years he was able to transmute this memory into creative inspiration.[13] During the occupation, the Jewish Ginsburg family was able to make their way from Paris to Limoges, traveling under false papers. Limoges was in the Zone libre under the administration of the collaborationist Vichy government and still a perilous refuge for Jews.[9] He attended the Lycée Condorcet high school in Paris but dropped out before completing his Baccalauréat.[14]

In 1945, Gainsbourg's (Ginsburg's) father enrolled him into Beaux-Arts de Paris, a prestigious art school,[14] before switching to the Académie de Montmartre, where his professors included the likes of André Lhote and Fernand Léger.[15][16] There, Gainsbourg would meet his first wife Elisabeth "Lize" Levitsky, daughter of Russian aristocrats who was also a part-time model.[14] They married on 3 November 1951 and were divorced by 1957.[14] In 1948, he was conscripted by the military for twelve months of service in Courbevoie. He never saw action and spent the time playing dirty songs on his guitar, visiting prostitutes and drinking, later admitting that the service made him an alcoholic.[14] Gainsbourg obtained work teaching music and drawing in a school outside of Paris, in Le Mesnil-le-Roi. The school was set up under the auspices of local rabbis, for the orphaned children of murdered deportees. Here, Gainsbourg heard the accounts of Nazi persecution and genocide, stories that resonated for Gainsbourg far into the future.[13]

1957–1963: Early work

Gainsbourg was disillusioned as a painter as he lacked talent but earned his living working odd jobs and as a piano player in bars, usually as a stand-in for his father.[14] He soon became the venue pianist at the drag cabaret club Madame Arthur.[17] Whilst filling in a form to join the songwriting society SACEM, Gainsbourg decided to change his first name to Serge, feeling that this was representative of his Jewish background and because, as his future partner Jane Birkin relates: "Lucien reminded him of a hairdresser's assistant".[9] He chose Gainsbourg as his last name, in homage to the English painter Thomas Gainsborough, whom he admired.[18] Gainsbourg had a revelation when he saw Boris Vian at the Milord l'Arsouille club whose provocative and humorous songs would influence his own compositions.[19] At the Milord l'Arsouille, Gainsbourg accompanied singer and club star Michèle Arnaud on the guitar.[15] In 1957, Arnaud and the club's director Francis Claude discovered, with amazement, the compositions of Gainsbourg while visiting his house to see his paintings. The next day, Claude pushed Gainsbourg on stage. Despite suffering from stage fright, he performed his own repertoire, including "Le Poinçonneur des Lilas",[20][21] which describes the day in the life of a Paris Métro ticket man, whose job is to stamp holes in passengers' tickets. Gainsbourg describes this chore as so monotonous, that the man eventually thinks of putting a hole into his own head and being buried in another.[22] He was given his own show by Claude and was eventually spotted by Jacques Canetti, who helped propel his career with a spot at the Théâtre des Trois Baudets and on his tours.[23] In 1958, Arnaud began recording several interpretations of Gainsbourg's songs.

His debut album, Du chant à la une !... (1958), was recorded in the summer of 1958, backed by arranger Alain Goraguer and his orchestra, beginning a fruitful collaboration. It was released in September, becoming a commercial and critical failure, despite winning the grand prize at L'Academie Charles Cross and the praise of Boris Vian, who compared him to Cole Porter.[24] His next album, N° 2 (1959), suffered the same fate. He made his film debut in 1959 with a supporting role in the French-Italian co-production Come Dance with Me, starring his future lover Brigitte Bardot.[25] In the following year, he featured as a Roman officer in the Italian sword-and-sandals epic-film The Revolt of the Slaves.[26] He would continue playing "nasty characters" in similar productions, including Samson (1961) and The Fury of Hercules (1962).[27] Gainsbourg's first commercial success came in 1960 with his single "L'Eau à la bouche", the title song from the film of the same name, for which he had composed the score.[28] L'Étonnant Serge Gainsbourg (1961), his third LP, included what would become one his best known songs from this period, "La Chanson de Prévert", which lifted lyrics from the Jacques Prévert poem "Les feuilles mortes".[29] After a night of drinking champagne and dancing with singer Juliette Gréco, Gainsbourg went home and wrote "La Javanaise" for her.[30] They would both release versions of the song in 1962, but it is Gainsbourg's rendition that has endured.[29] His fourth album, Serge Gainsbourg N° 4 was released in 1962, incorporated Latin and rock and roll influences whilst his next, Gainsbourg Confidentiel (1963), featured a more minimalistic jazz approach, accompanied only by a double bass and electric guitar.[31][32]

1963–1966: Eurovision and involvement in the yé-yé movement

Gainsbourg, Gall, and del Monaco at the Eurovision Song Contest, 20 March 1965
Gainsbourg, Gall, and del Monaco at the Eurovision Song Contest, 20 March 1965

Despite initially mocking yé-yé, a style of French pop typically sang by young female singers, Gainsbourg would soon become of its most important figures after writing a string of hits for artists like Brigitte Bardot, Petula Clark and France Gall.[18] He had met Gall after being introduced by a friend as they were Philips Records labelmates,[33] thus beginning a successful collaboration that would produce hits like "N'écoute pas les idoles", the frequently covered "Laisse tomber les filles" and "Poupée de cire, poupée de son", the latter of which was the Luxembourgian winning entry at the Eurovision Song Contest 1965.[34] Inspired by the 4th movement (Prestissimo in F minor) from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 1, the song featured double entendres and wordplay, a staple of Gainsbourg's lyrics.[35] The controversially risqué "Les sucettes" ("Lollipops"), featured references to oral sex, unbeknownst to the 18-year-old Gall, who thought the song was about lollipops.[34] Gall later expressed displeasure at Gainsbourg's antics, stating she felt "betrayed by the adults around me" in 2001.[36] Gainsbourg married a second time on 7 January 1964, to Françoise-Antoinette "Béatrice" Pancrazzi, with whom he had two children: a daughter named Natacha (b. 8 August 1964) and a son, Paul (born in spring 1968).[37] He divorced Béatrice in February 1966.[37]

His next album, Gainsbourg Percussions (1964), was inspired by the rhythms and melodies of African musicians Miriam Makeba and Babatunde Olatunji.[38] Olatunji later sued Gainsbourg for lifting three tracks from his 1960 album Drums of Passion.[39] Nevertheless, the album has been hailed as being ahead of its time for its incorporation of world music and lyrical content depicting interracial love.[38] Between 1965 and 1966, Gainsbourg composed the music and sung the words of science fiction writer André Ruellan for several songs made for a series of animated Marie-Mathematics shorts created by Jean-Claude Forest.[40] He would reunite with Michèle Arnaud for the duet "Les Papillons Noirs" from her 1966 comeback record.[41]

1967–1969: Famous muses and duets

Bardot (left) pictured in 1968 and Birkin pictured in 1970

In 1967, Gainsbourg wrote the script and provided the soundtrack for the musical comedy television film Anna starring Anna Karina in the titular role.[42][41] Another Gainsbourg song, "Boum-Badaboum" by Minouche Barelli, was entered by Monaco in the Eurovision Song Contest 1967, coming in fifth place.[41] In that year, Gainsbourg would have a brief but ardent love affair with Brigitte Bardot. One day she asked him to write the most beautiful love song he could imagine and, that night, he wrote the duets "Je t'aime... moi non plus" and "Bonnie and Clyde" for her.[43] The erotic yet cynical "Je t'aime", describing the hopelessness of physical love, was recorded by the pair in a small glass booth in Paris. But after Bardot's husband, German businessman Gunter Sachs, became aware of the recording he demanded it be withdrawn. Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release it and he complied.[44] Bardot's LP Brigitte Bardot Show 67 contained four songs penned by Gainsbourg, including duets such as the playful "Comic Strip" and the string-laden "Bonnie and Clyde", which tells the story of the American criminal couple and was based on a poem written by Bonnie Parker herself.[3] His own Initials B.B. (1968) included these duets and was his first album in nearly four years. It blended orchestral pop with the style of rock characteristic of London in the swinging sixties, where the album was largely recorded.[45] Gainsbourg borrowed heavily from Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony for the title track, named after and dedicated to Bardot.[29] Phillips subsidiary Fontana Records also issued the compilation LP Bonnie and Clyde (1968) comprising their duets and other previously recorded material.[46]

His percussion heavy 1968 single "Requiem pour un con" was performed onscreen by Gainsbourg in the crime film Le Pacha, for which he was the composer.[47] Shortly after being left by Bardot, Gainsbourg was asked by Françoise Hardy to write a French version of the song "It Hurts to Say Goodbye". The result was "Comment te dire adieu", which is notable for its uncommon rhymes and has become one of Hardy's signature songs.[48]

In mid-1968 Gainsbourg fell in love with the younger English singer and actress Jane Birkin, whom he met during the shooting of the film Slogan (1969).[9] In the film, Gainsbourg starred as a commercial director who has an affair on his pregnant wife with a younger woman, played by Birkin.[49] Gainsbourg also provided the soundtrack and dueted with Birkin on the title theme ""La Chanson de Slogan". The relationship would last for over a decade.[50] In July 1971 they had a daughter, Charlotte, who would become an actress and singer.[51] Although many sources state that they were married,[52] according to their daughter Charlotte this was not the case.[50] After filming Slogan, Gainsbourg asked Birkin to re-record "Je t'aime..." with him.[44] Her vocals were an octave higher than Bardot's, contained suggestive heavy breathing and culminated in simulated orgasm sounds. Released in February 1969, the song topped the UK Singles Chart after being temporarily banned due to its overtly sexual content. It was banned from the radio in several other countries, including Spain, Sweden, Italy and France before 11pm.[53] The song was even publicly denounced by The Vatican.[54] It was included on the joint album Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg, which also contained "Élisa" and new recordings of songs written by other artists including "Les sucettes", "L'anamour" and "Sous le soleil exactement". In 2017, Pitchfork named it the 44th best album of the 1960s.[45]

The 1970s

Gainsbourg in 1971
Gainsbourg in 1971

Histoire de Melody Nelson was released in 1971. This concept album, produced and arranged by Jean-Claude Vannier, tells the story of a Lolita-esque affair, with Gainsbourg as the narrator. It features prominent string arrangements and even a massed choir at its tragic climax. The album has proven influential with artists such as Air, David Holmes, Jarvis Cocker, Beck and Dan the Automator.[55]

He had a heart attack in May 1973, but refused to cut back on smoking and drinking.[53]

In 1975, he released the album Rock Around the Bunker, an album written entirely on the subject of National Socialism. Gainsbourg used black comedy, as he and his family had suffered during World War II, being forced to wear the yellow star as the mark of a Jew. Rock Around the Bunker belonged to the mid-1970s "retro" trend.

The next year saw the release of another major work, L'Homme à tête de chou (Cabbage-Head Man), featuring the new character Marilou and sumptuous orchestral themes. Cabbage-Head Man is one of his nicknames, as it refers to his ears. Musically, L'homme à tête de chou turned out to be Gainsbourg's last LP in the English rock style he had favoured since the late 1960s. He would go on to produce two reggae albums recorded in Jamaica (1979 and 1981) and two electronic funk albums recorded in New York (1984 and 1987).

In Jamaica in 1979, he recorded "Aux Armes et cætera", a reggae version of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise", with Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar and Rita Marley. Following harsh and anti-semitic criticism in right-wing newspaper Le Figaro by Charles de Gaulle biographer Michel Droit,[citation needed] his song earned him death threats from right-wing veteran soldiers of the Algerian War of Independence, who were opposed to their national anthem being arranged in reggae style. In 1979, a show had to be cancelled, because an angry mob of French Army parachutists came to demonstrate in the audience. Alone onstage, Gainsbourg raised his fist and answered: "The true meaning of our national anthem is revolutionary" and sang it a capella with the audience. The soldiers joined them, a scene enjoyed by millions as French TV news broadcast it, creating more publicity. Shortly afterward, Gainsbourg purchased the original manuscript of "La Marseillaise". He replied to his critics that his version was closer to the original as the manuscript actually features the words "Aux armes et cætera..." for the chorus. This album, described by legendary drummer Sly Dunbar as "Perhaps the best record he ever played on", was his biggest commercial success, including major hits "Lola Rastaquouère", "Aux armes et cætera", and a French version of Sam Theard's jazz classic "You Rascal You" entitled "Vieille canaille".[56] Rita Marley and the I-Three would record another controversial reggae album with him in 1981, Mauvaises nouvelles des étoiles. Bob Marley was furious, when he discovered that Gainsbourg made his wife Rita sing erotic lyrics.[57] Posthumous new mixes, including dub versions by Soljie Hamilton and versions of both albums by Jamaican artists, were released as double "Dub Style" albums in 2003, to critical praise in France as well as abroad and to international commercial success. Although belatedly, Aux Armes Et Cætera – Dub Style and Mauvaises Nouvelles Des Étoiles – Dub Style further established Gainsbourg, posthumously, as an influential icon in European pop music.

Final years

Tribute graffiti covers the outer wall of Serge Gainsbourg's house on the rue de Verneuil in Paris, looked after by Charlotte Gainsbourg after her father's death
Tribute graffiti covers the outer wall of Serge Gainsbourg's house on the rue de Verneuil in Paris, looked after by Charlotte Gainsbourg after her father's death

In 1982, Gainsbourg wrote an album for French rocker Alain Bashung, Play blessures. The album, although now considered a masterpiece by French critics, was a commercial failure.[58]

After a turbulent 13-year relationship, Jane Birkin left Gainsbourg.[9] He still went on to write and produce three more albums for her: Baby Alone in Babylone (1983), Lost Song (1987), Amour des feintes (1990), with many songs being about their relationship (including "Fuir le bonheur de peur qu'il ne se sauve", which would be read by Catherine Deneuve during Gainsbourg's funeral in 1991).

In the 1980s, near the end of his life, Gainsbourg became a regular figure on French TV. His appearances were increasingly devoted to his controversial sense of humour and provocation. In March 1984, he burned three-quarters of a 500-French-franc bill on television to protest against taxes rising up to 74% of income.[59][60]

Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg

He would show up drunk and unshaven on stage: in April 1986, on Michel Drucker's live Saturday evening television show Champs-Élysées, with the American singer Whitney Houston, he objected to Drucker's translating his comments to Houston and in English stated: "I said, I want to fuck her"—Drucker, utterly embarrassed, insisted that this meant "He says you are great..."[57] That same year, in another talk show interview, he appeared alongside Catherine Ringer, the well-known singer from Les Rita Mitsouko. Gainsbourg spat out at her, "You're nothing but a filthy whore" to which Ringer replied, "look at you, you're just a bitter old've become a disgusting old parasite."[61]

For many in France, this incident was the last straw, and much of his later work was overlooked since it was often done and performed while he was inebriated. After Gainsbourg's passing, Eddy Mitchell reported that their duet of "You Rascal You" had far fewer sales than would have normally been expected because of this. Michel Drucker, also, reported that he had a difficult time apologizing to Whitney Houston. After that particular incident, Gainsbourg was never again really "clean" in public, almost always having a drink in his hand and a lit cigarette between his lips, thus disgusting many with his behavior and demeanor in all he said and did. Famous humorist Pierre Desproges, who commented the incident with Catherine Ringer, said that he had admired Gainsbourg when he was alive (meaning to say that he was currently as good as dead), and that he was "the only genius looking like a garbage can" ("le seul génie qui ressemble à une poubelle").

His songs became increasingly eccentric during this period, ranging from the anti-drug "Aux Enfants de la Chance", to the highly controversial duet with his daughter Charlotte named "Lemon Incest".[62]

Yet he continued to produce albums and songs for women—typically women with a frail voice—some of them highly successful, like the aforementioned Baby Alone in Babylone (1983) and Amour des feintes (1990) for Jane Birkin, Variations sur le même t'aime (1990) for Vanessa Paradis, Pull marine (1983) for Isabelle Adjani, "White and Black Blues" for Joëlle Ursull (which came second at the 1990 Eurovision).

His last official partner was Bambou. In 1986, they had a son, Lucien, known as Lulu.[1] In 2010, Lise Lévitzky published a book called Lise et Lulu which raises the possibility of Gainsbourg being bisexual.[63][64] In 2017, Constance Meyer published a book titled La jeune fille et Gainsbourg, in which she reveals that she had a love affair with the musician during his last years, which began in 1985 when, then aged 16, she sent him a love letter.[65] In December 1988, while a judge at a film festival in Val d'Isère, he was extremely intoxicated at a local theatre where he was to do a presentation. While on stage he began to tell an obscene story about Brigitte Bardot and a champagne bottle, only to stagger offstage and collapse in a nearby seat.[61] Subsequent years saw his health deteriorate. He had to undergo liver surgery but denied any connection to cancer or cirrhosis. His appearances and releases became sparser as he had to rest and recover in Vezelay. During these final years, he released Love on the Beat, a controversial electronic album with mostly sexual themes (exemplified by the titular song, for which he sampled actual sexual screams from Bambou), and his last studio album, You're Under Arrest, which presented more synth-driven songs, as well as two live albums.[1]

Film work


Gainsbourg appeared in nearly 50 film and television roles. In 1960, he co-starred with Rhonda Fleming in the Italian film La rivolta degli schiavi (The Revolt of the Slaves) as Corvino, the Roman Emperor Massimiano's evil henchman. In 1968 he wrote music for and appeared as himself in Le Pacha directed by Georges Lautner. In 1969, he appeared in William Klein's pop art satire Mr. Freedom, and in the same year he co-starred alongside Jane Birkin in The Pleasure Pit as well as in Slogan, for which he wrote the title song "La Chanson de Slogan". Also with Birkin, he acted in the French-Yugoslav film Devetnaest djevojaka i jedan mornar [fr] (19 girls and one sailor) where he played a role of a partisan. They acted together again in Cannabis the following year, and again in Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye in 1973. He also made a brief appearance with Birkin in Herbert Vesely's 1980 film Egon Schiele – Exzess und Bestrafung.


Gainsbourg wrote and directed four feature films: Je t'aime moi non plus, Équateur, Charlotte for Ever, and Stan the Flasher. He also made a short film, Le Physique et le Figuré, and co-wrote the first color film made for French television "Anna."[66][67] He directed a few music videos, including the controversial "Morgane de toi" for his friend Renaud, featuring a group of naked children running on a beach.


Throughout his career, Gainsbourg wrote the soundtracks for nearly 60 films and television programs. In 1996, he received a posthumous César Award for Best Music Written for a Film for Élisa, along with Zbigniew Preisner and Michel Colombier.


Gainsbourg wrote a short novel entitled Evguénie Sokolov, a first person narrative where the titular protagonist recounts how he became a famous avant-garde painter by exploiting his uncontrollable and violent farts, generating the trademark shaky graphic style of his works which he calls "gazogrammes".[68]

Death and legacy

The gravesites of Serge Gainsbourg and Olga and Joseph Ginsburg
The gravesites of Serge Gainsbourg and Olga and Joseph Ginsburg

Gainsbourg, who smoked five packs of unfiltered Gitane cigarettes a day,[69] died on 2 March 1991 of a heart attack, a month shy of his 63rd birthday. He was buried in the Jewish section of the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. French President François Mitterrand said of him, "He was our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire ... He elevated the song to the level of art."[44]

Since his death, Gainsbourg's music has reached legendary stature in France.[70] He has also gained a following in the English-speaking world, with numerous artists influenced by his arrangements. 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.[citation needed] The majority of Gainsbourg's lyrics are collected in the volume Dernières nouvelles des étoiles.[71]

The Parisian house in which Gainsbourg lived from 1969 until 1991, at 5 bis Rue de Verneuil, remains a celebrated shrine, with his ashtrays and collections of various items, such as police badges and bullets, intact. The outside of the house is covered in graffiti dedicated to Gainsbourg, as well as with photographs of significant figures in his life, including Bardot and Birkin.[72]

The French rock band BB Brunes was named after his song, "Initials B.B.".

Film biopic

Comics artist Joann Sfar wrote and directed a feature film titled Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque), which was released in France in 2010. Gainsbourg is portrayed by Eric Elmosnino as an adult and Kacey Mottet Klein as a child. The film won three César Awards, including Best Actor for Elmosnino, and nominated for an additional eight.[73]


In 2008, Paris' Cité de la Musique held the Gainsbourg 2008 exhibition, curated by sound artist Frédéric Sanchez.[74][75]

Tributes left at the gravesite
Tributes left at the gravesite


Studio albums

Year Album Chart Certifications
1958 Du chant à la une 137
1959 N° 2
1961 L'Étonnant Serge Gainsbourg
1962 Serge Gainsbourg N° 4
1963 Gainsbourg Confidentiel
1964 Gainsbourg Percussions
1968 Bonnie & Clyde (with Brigitte Bardot)
1968 Initials B.B.
1969 Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg 4
1971 Histoire de Melody Nelson 56
1973 Vu de l'extérieur
1975 Rock around the bunker 5
1976 L'Homme à tête de chou 85 FR: Gold[79]
1979 Aux armes et cætera 1 FR: Platinum[79]
1981 Mauvaises nouvelles des étoiles 47 FR: Gold[79]
1984 Love on the Beat 3 FR: Platinum[79]
1987 You're Under Arrest 2 FR: Platinum[79]

Live albums

Compilation albums

  • 2021: L'ALbum de sa vie (100 titles) (Peak FR: #19, BEL (Wa): #89)

Selected film scores

Singles and EPs

The majority of his EPs (represented in italics) were also released as 7-inch promo jukebox singles.

Year Single Peak chart positions
AUT[80] BE (WA)[81] FRA[82] NL[83] NOR[84] SUI[85] UK[86] US[87]
1958 Le Poinçonneur des Lilas
1959 La Jambe de bois (Friedland)
Le Claqueur de doigts
1960 L'Eau à la bouche 49
Les Loups dans la bergerie
Romantique 60
1961 La Chanson de Prévert
Les Oubliettes
1962 Les Goémons
1963 Vilaine fille, mauvais garçon [A] [A]
1964 Comment trouvez-vous ma sœur ?
Chez les yé-yé
Couleur Café
1966 Qui est "In", Qui est "Out" 47
1967 Vidocq
Toutes folles de lui
Comic Strip 45
1968 "Bonnie and Clyde" (with Brigitte Bardot)[B] 18
"Manon 70"
"Requiem pour un con" 49[C]
"Ce sacré grand-père"
"Initials B.B."[B] 42 93[D]
Mister Freedom 80[E]
1969 "Élisa"
"Je t'aime... moi non plus" (with Jane Birkin) 1 2 3[88] 2 1 1 1 58
"La Chanson de Slogan" (with Jane Birkin)
"La Horse" 94[E]
1970 "Un petit garçon applé Charlie Brown"
1971 "Ballade de Melody Nelson" 29[89]
1972 "La Décadanse" (with Jane Birkin) 13 47[89]
1973 "Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais" 35 73[D]
1974 "Je t'aime... moi non plus" (re-release) 31
1975 "Rock Around the Bunker" 47
"L'Ami Caouette" 31
1976 "Marilou sous la neige" 50
"Ballade de Johnny-Jane"
1977 "Madame Claude"
"My Lady Héroïne" 47
"Good Bye Emmanuelle"
"Chanson du chevalier blanc"
1978 "Sea, Sex and Sun"
1979 "Des laids, des laids" / "Aux armes et cætera"
"Vieille Canaille"
1980 "Harley-Davidson"
"Requiem pour un twister"
"Dieu fumeur de Havanes" (with Catherine Deneuve) 8[90]
1981 "Souviens-toi de m'oublier" (with Catherine Deneuve)
"Le Physique et le figuré"
"Ecce Homo"
1982 "Bana Basadi Balalo"
1984 "Love on the Beat"
1985 "Lemon Incest" (with Charlotte Gainsbourg) 2
"No Comment"
1986 "Vieille Canaille" (with Eddy Mitchell) 17[90]
"Je t'aime... moi non plus" (with Brigitte Bardot)
"Charlotte Forever" (with Charlotte Gainsbourg)
1987 "You're Under Arrest" 47
1988 "Aux enfants de la chance" 35
"Mon Légionnaire"
1989 "Hey Man Amen" (Live)[B]
"Couleur Café" (Live)
1990 "Stan the Flasher"
1991 "Requiem Pour un Con" (Remix 91) 8
1995 "Élisa" (re-release) 36
2000 "Je t'aime" (The Mixes)
2003 "Lola Rastaquouère"
Marilou Reggae
"Aux Armes!" (featuring Big Youth)
2010 "Les Cœurs Verts"
Le Jardinier d'Argenteuil
Si j'étais un espion
2011 "Comme un boomerang" [F] 40
2017 "Équateur"
2020 À la Maison de la Radio


  1. ^ a b "La Javanaise" on the B-side of the EP charted at number 38 in Belgium and when re-released in 2011, charted at number 87 in France
  2. ^ a b c Also released as an EP
  3. ^ Chart position in 2010
  4. ^ a b Chart position in 2011
  5. ^ a b Chart position in 2009
  6. ^ "Comme un boomerang" did not chart on the Ultratop 50, but did reach #11 on the Ultratip chart[91]


  • De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre (1989, 1994, Philips)
A 207-track survey of Gainsbourg's career from 1959 to 1981 on nine CDs, issued both separately and in a box: Vol. 1 – Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas, 1959-1960; Vol. 2 – La Javanaise, 1961-1963; Vol. 3 – Couleur Café, 1963-1964; Vol. 4 – Initials B.B., 1966-1968; Vol. 5 – Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus, 1969-1971; Vol. 6 – Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'en Vais, 1973-1975; Vol. 7 – L'Homme à Tête de Chou, 1975-1981; Vol. 8 – Aux Armes et Cætera, 1979-1981; and Vol. 9 – Anna, 1967–1980. A two-CD highlights collection, also called De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre, was culled from this edition in 1990. The box was reissued in 1994 with two more discs containing the later albums Love on the Beat (1984) and You're Under Arrest (1987).
  • Gainsbourg Forever (2001, Mercury)
An 18-CD box issued to mark the tenth anniversary of Gainsbourg's death containing each of his sixteen studio albums and the EP Essais Pour Signature (1958) in its original format (one per CD), plus a disc of rarities, Inédits, Les Archives 1958-1981. A separate 3-CD box, Le Cinéma de Serge Gainsbourg: Musiques de Films 1959–1990 (2001, Mercury) covered his film music.
  • Serge Gainsbourg Intégrale (2011, Philips)
A 20-CD, 271-track box issued to mark the twentieth anniversary of Gainsbourg's death. The first sixteen discs contain his studio albums and related tracks. They are followed by a disc of singles, a disc of television and radio recordings, and two discs of film music.

Albums written for other artists

Singles written for other artists

  • "Laisse tomber les filles" (1964) – France Gall
  • "N’écoute pas les idoles" (1964) – France Gall
  • "Les Incorruptibles" (1965) – Petula Clark
  • "La Gadoue" (1965) – Petula Clark
  • "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" (1965) – France Gall
  • "Attends ou va-t'en" (1965) – France Gall
  • "Nous ne sommes pas des anges" (1965) – France Gall
  • "Baby Pop" (1966) – France Gall
  • "Les Sucettes" (1966) – France Gall
  • "Les Papillons Noirs" (1966) – Michèle Arnaud
  • "Teenie Weenie Boppie" (1967) – France Gall
  • "Ne dis rien" (1967) – Anna Karina
  • "Comment te dire adieu?" (1968) – Françoise Hardy (lyrics)
  • "Betty Jane Rose" (1978) – Bijou
  • "Joujou à la casse" (1979) – Alain Chamfort
  • "Manureva" (1979) – Alain Chamfort
  • "Amour Puissance Six" (1989) – Viktor Lazlo
  • "Dis-lui toi que je t'aime" (1990) – Vanessa Paradis
  • "White and Black Blues" (1990) – Joëlle Ursull (lyrics by Gainsbourg)

Selected tribute albums and posthumous releases

Notes and references


  1. ^ Short version: Olia, his mother's baptist name was Olga, as written on Gainsbourg's grave


  1. ^ a b c d e "Serge Gainsbourg Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  2. ^ Macek III, J.C. (13 February 2014). "Serge Gainsbourg's Concept Album, Through the Zeitgeist Darkly". PopMatters. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b Jones, Mikey IQ (10 September 2015). "A beginner's guide to Serge Gainsbourg". Fact. Archived from the original on 6 February 2021. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  4. ^ Ginsburg is sometimes spelled Ginzburg in the media, including print encyclopedias and dictionaries. Ginsburg is however the name engraved on Gainsbourg's grave; Lucien Ginsburg is the name by which Gainsbourg is referred to, as a performer, in the Sacem catalog [1] (along with Serge Gainsbourg as the author/composer/adaptor).
  5. ^ Obituary Variety, 11 March 1991.
  6. ^ Sylvie Simmons (2 February 2001). "An extract from Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes by Sylvie Simmons". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Torrance, Kelly Jane. "An Unconventional Film for the Unconventional Serge Gainsbourg". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  8. ^ "The 100 Greatest Artists – No. 62". Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Robinson, Lisa (15 October 2007). "The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  10. ^ fr:Liste des chansons de Serge Gainsbourg
  11. ^ fr:Reprises des chansons de Serge Gainsbourg
  12. ^ E.W. (12 October 2017). "In "Rest", Charlotte Gainsbourg explores the sharp edges of grief". The Economist.
  13. ^ a b c Ivry, Benjamin (26 November 2008). "The Man With the Yellow Star: The Jewish Life of Serge Gainsbourg". The Forward. Archived from the original on 10 March 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Sylvie Simmons (6 June 2015). "Tolstoy's granddaughter. Dali's sleek couch. How Serge Gainsbourg became Serge Gainsbourg". Salon. Archived from the original on 3 December 2020. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  15. ^ a b Giuliani, Morgane (2 March 2016). "Serge Gainsbourg : 9 lieux à visiter à Paris pour mieux connaître le chanteur". RTL. Archived from the original on 28 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  16. ^ Searle, Adrian (25 November 2018). "Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures review – humanity in a machine age". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 December 2020. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  17. ^ "Discovering Serge Gainsbourg's Paris". Coggle. Archived from the original on 28 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  18. ^ a b B. Green, David (2 March 2014). "This Day in Jewish History 1991: Controversial French Singer Serge Gainsbourg Dies". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 25 October 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  19. ^ L'Arc Journal (#90) special issue devoted to Boris Vian, 1984
  20. ^ Rollet, Thierry (26 July 2018). Léo Ferré an artist's life. p. 196.
  21. ^ Verlant, Gilles (15 November 2000). Gainsbourg. Albin Michel. pp. 132 to 134.
  22. ^ Grabar, Henry (12 April 2013). "Could Paris End Up With a Metro Station Named After Serge Gainsbourg?". Bloomberg CityLab. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  23. ^ Kirkup, James (10 June 1997). "Obituary: Jacques Canetti". The Independent. Archived from the original on 4 May 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  24. ^ "Serge Gainsbourg". 29 May 2018. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  25. ^ Simmons 2001, p. 31.
  26. ^ Morain, Jean-Baptiste (23 February 2021). "Gainsbourg et le cinéma : je t'aime, moi non plus…". Les Inrockuptibles. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  27. ^ Simmons 2001, p. 34.
  28. ^ Dale, Paul (23 July 2010). "Five Great Serge Gainsbourg film soundtracks". The List. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  29. ^ a b c Allen, Jeremy (15 January 2014). "10 of the best: Serge Gainsbourg". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 April 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  30. ^ Guyard, Bertrand (24 September 2020). "Ne vous déplaise, Serge Gainsbourg a écrit La Javanaise pour Juliette Gréco". Le Figaro. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  31. ^ "Serge Gainsbourg No. 4". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  32. ^ Bromfield, Daniel (6 January 2019). "Serge Gainsbourg: Gainsbourg Confidentiel". Spectrum Culture. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  33. ^ Simmons 2001, p. 42.
  34. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (8 January 2018). "France Gall, Adaptable French Singing Star, Is Dead at 70". New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 April 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  35. ^ Mahé, Patrick (15 January 2021). "Gainsbourg, le dandy des mots". Paris Match. Archived from the original on 7 March 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  36. ^ "France Gall & Serge Gainsbourg - The story behind "Les Sucettes"". YouTube. 6 January 2010. Archived from the original on 30 October 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  37. ^ a b Marain, Alexandre (2 April 2021). "Serge Gainsbourg: the 8 women in his life". Vogue Paris. Archived from the original on 8 April 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  38. ^ a b Tangari, Joe (11 August 2011). "Serge Gainsbourg Gainsbourg Percussions". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 2 April 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  39. ^ Simmons 2001, p. 40.
  40. ^ Loret, Eric (18 February 2011). "When Gainsbourg fooled around with Barbarella's sister". Libération. Archived from the original on 6 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  41. ^ a b c Simmons 2001, p. 44.
  42. ^ Whitmore, Greg (15 December 2019). "Anna Karina, French new wave icon – a life in pictures". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 July 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  43. ^ Brown, Helen (8 May 2017). "How Serge Gainsbourg's Je t'aime . . . moi non plus whipped up a scandal". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 25 May 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  44. ^ a b c Sylvie Simmons, The Guardian (2 February 2001). "The eyes have it". London.
  45. ^ a b Pitchfork Staff (22 August 2017). "The 200 Best Albums of the 1960s". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 11 April 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  46. ^ Neate, Wilson. "Bonnie and Clyde". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 22 July 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  47. ^ Banerji, Atreyi (8 February 2021). "Watch refurbished footage of Serge Gainsbourg in 'Le Pacha'". Far Out. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  48. ^ Martin, Anthony (5 November 2020). "Françoise Hardy: discover the original version of "Comment te dire adieu"". RTL. Archived from the original on 23 February 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  49. ^ Simmons 2001, p. 50.
  50. ^ a b Adams, William Lee (26 January 2010). "French Chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg". Archived from the original on 29 January 2010.
  51. ^ Simmons 2001, p. 68.
  52. ^ "Best-Looking Couples Ever". See Your World LLC.
    JoAnne Good (9 July 2011). "Inside Travel: Pooches in Paris". The Independent.
    "Serge Gainsbourg's women: the music". The Daily Telegraph. 7 February 2011.
    "Birkin, Bardot and Gainsbourg, the accidental sex symbol". The Guardian. 5 July 2010.
    "Jane Birkin". Apple Inc.
  53. ^ a b Gorman, Francine (28 February 2011). "Serge Gainsbourg's 20 most scandalous moments". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  54. ^ Spencer, Neil (22 May 2005). "The 10 most x-rated records". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  55. ^ Album notes from Initials SG
  56. ^ Batteur Magazine, France, 2003
  57. ^ a b Chrisafis, Angelique, The Guardian (14 April 2006). "Gainsbourg, je t'aime". London.
  58. ^ "Play Blessures". (in French). Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  59. ^ Roughly 75 €, but in 1984, 500 FF represented one-sixth of the net minimum monthly wage in France
  60. ^ Hodgkinson, Will, The Guardian (5 February 2003). "Serge, mon amour". London.
  61. ^ a b Kent, Nick, The Guardian (15 April 2006). "What a drag". London.
  62. ^ A controversial video for Lemon Incest featured a half-naked Gainsbourg lying on a bed with his daughter Charlotte. Phrases from the song include L'amour que nous ne ferons jamais ensemble/ Est le plus beau le plus violent/ Le plus pur le plus enivrant (The love that we will never make together/ is the most beautiful, the most violent/ The most pure, the most heady).
  63. ^ "Serge Gainsbourg: "au bois, je me suis fait..."".
  64. ^ "Oser en parler » - Ce qu'est réellement l'homosexualité".
  65. ^ "Exquis ex-kiss". Libé (in French). 11 October 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  66. ^ "Anna".
  67. ^ "Serge Gainsbourg".
  68. ^ "Tam Tam Books". Tam Tam Books. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  69. ^ Willsher, Kim (20 July 2016). "Smokers fume as France mulls ban on 'too cool' Gitanes and Gauloises". The Guardian.
  70. ^ Nuc, Olivier (29 February 2016). "Gainsbourg est en train de remplacer Trenet ou Brassens". Le (in French). Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  71. ^ Bart Plantenga (2014). "Serge Gainsbourg: The Obscurity of Fame". Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  72. ^ Jody Macgregor (16 April 2014). "8 secret music destinations you need to visit right now". Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  73. ^ César Awards 2011
  74. ^ Holman, Rachel (3 March 2013). "Twenty years on, Gainsbourg remains France's favourite 'enfant terrible'". France 24. Retrieved 10 November 2015. Frédéric Sanchez, who curated "Gainsbourg 2008" in Paris, describes him as, "one of the most important artists of the 20th century".
  75. ^ Litchfield, John (23 October 2011). "Je t'aime (again): The French love affair with Serge Gainsbourg". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2015. The curator of the exhibition, Frédéric Sanchez, describes the choice of Gainsbourg as a "consecration" and an "apotheosis".
  76. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Discographie Serge Gainsbourg".
  77. ^ Lesueur, InfoDisc, Daniel Lesueur, Dominic Durand. "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste".
  78. ^ Lesueur, InfoDisc, Daniel Lesueur, Dominic Durand. "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste".
  79. ^ a b c d e Lesueur, InfoDisc, Daniel Lesueur, Dominic Durand. "InfoDisc : Les Certifications Officielles des Formats Longs ((33 T. / CD / Albums / Téléchargements depuis 1973".
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  84. ^ "Norwegian charts portal". Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  85. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Retrieved 15 September 2020.
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External links

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