Imagine one of the most debonair and talented male singers of all time together with a beautiful, groundbreaking English actress. One was a national treasure of France, and the other a fashion icon and muse to designers. There you have Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.
I love what these two were: romantic, poetic, gorgeous, talented, cultured, interesting, stylish, adventurous, passionate, and exciting.
Their love affair lasted for thirteen years, but their relationship lasted until Serge’s death. Even when Jane left him in 1980, they stayed very close. When she became pregnant by a new lover, Serge was the first person she called to tell once she’d given birth. And when he died, Jane was one of four women to sit in his bedroom with his body for four days. (The other three women were his girlfriend at the time, Bambou; his daughter Charlotte, and Jane’s daughter Kate.)
They met when he was 40 and she was 22, on a movie set. Serge had been rude and apathetic to Jane, and she was determined to make him notice her, so she planned a dinner with him. The two ended up dancing, and when Serge couldn’t stop stepping on her toes, she realized that his blasé attitude was simply a mask for his shyness. This touched her heart and encouraged her to get to know him better, and very soon they became inseparable.
Serge’s sleepy-eyed atmosphere perfectly complimented Jane’s effortless beauty. He was shy, she was aggressive. Together they made such a great pair, the epitome of European style.
Little things about these two fascinate me. Serge made friends with the taxi drivers he used, often paying for needs in their lives such as dental work or home repair. He also hung out with the local policemen at a time when it was anything but fashionable to do so (the 60s), and frequently had drinks with them. Jane was the first actress to be fully nude in a mainstream film. When their daughter, Charlotte, was a baby, they decided against a nanny and simply took her everywhere with them—even to nightclubs—and they raised her on the music of Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Cole Porter. And when Serge and Jane’s 1969 song “Je t’aime…Moi non Plus” was banned by the Vatican, they were thrilled.
And what would cause such a perfect pair to split? According to Jane, “Monotony. We were no longer going to the five nightclubs every night. We were only going to one, the same one until four in the morning all the time.”
And here I thought she meant monotony like dinner, shower, and bed every night.