Style is not just about beauty, it’s about finding out what fits you well and putting it all together. Serge Gainsbourg was a french rock star with great style and always surrounded by sexy girls. Something about him that fitted his personality and life style, and it all came together and worked. That is what style is. Finding what works on you and wearing it well.
Finding his signature style is what matters here. It takes some people their entire life (and let’s face it some people never figure it out), but when you realize the absolute basics to fashion and that style has to do with how clothes fit you and how those clothes interact with your lifestyle, then you truly figured it out. Gainsbourg, who was always smoking and had a crazy party life, was always wearing a white shirt that look liked he had slept in it. He never had anything ironed or looked neat, but was always wearing a suit or a jacket. He was chic, and with purpose effortlessly cool. He was definitely trendy, but seemingly wore his clothes without care,
He was, by his own account, a freakishly ugly man, blessed with jug ears, narrow eyes and a huge hooter. In Joann Sfar’s biopic, he’s represented by a golem-like puppet that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Count from Sesame Street. So how was it that Serge Gainsbourg managed to seduce some of the world’s most beautiful women?
“I never actually had a relationship with him,” says Marianne Faithfull, who first met Serge in 1965. “But I sometimes wish I had. You could tell that anyone who slept with him would come away very satisfied indeed. Ha ha! He had a wonderful aura of quiet confidence around him, an odd mixture of shyness and arrogance.”
There was certainly no lack of implausibly attractive women who were more than willing. “Serge liked to surround himself with women,” says the actress and singer Jane Birkin, who was married to Gainsbourg in the 1970s. “He was insecure about his looks and felt validated by their attentions.”
Indeed, it was women who transformed Gainsbourg’s career. None of his early records sold many copies or attracted much attention, but he started to make a name for himself when women started to cover his songs.
The stunning actress and singer Juliette Gréco was the first, releasing an EP of Gainsbourg songs in 1959. But it was the 16-year-old blonde France Gall – one of the country’s new “yé-yé singers” – who transformed his career. After initially dismissing yé-yé – a style of music popular in France and Spain in the 1960s – as “banal”, he started writing for Gall in 1965. “I am a turncoat,” he said. “I turned my coat and I now see that it is made of silk.”
His first song for her was a chart topper; his next won the Eurovision Song Contest. Later, he got her to sing the innuendo-laden Les Sucettes, about a young girl’s fondness for sucking lollipops.
Gall’s success brought Gainsbourg celebrity, including several movie roles. His songs were covered by the likes of Françoise Hardy, Michèle Arnaud, Valérie Lagrange, Michèle Torr, Régine, Dalida, Barbara, Isabelle Aubret and Brigitte Bardot, not to mention overseas artists such as Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, Dionne Warwick and Nico.
The attentions of some of these women infuriated Gainsbourg’s wives. He’d actually been married twice by the mid-1960s. In 1951, aged 23, he married fellow bohemian art student Elisabeth Levitsky. Levitsky came from Russian aristocratic stock and worked as an assistant to Salvador Dalí’s friend, the poet Georges Hugnet. As a result she had access to Dalí’s Paris apartment, which the couple often used as a hurried love nest.
They split and, in 1964, Gainsbourg married the beautiful, if long-suffering, Béatrice Pancrazzi, although they lived separately. By this stage, Gainsbourg had started to stray..
Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot .
One of his affairs was with Brigitte Bardot. Bardot, aged 34, was still a huge star, but her film career appeared to be over. Gainsbourg assisted her transition from film to music, providing Bardot with some memorable psych-pop material. They had a brief, passionate affair, raising his public profile and consolidating his credentials as an unlikely sex symbol. He and Pancrazzi briefly reconciled, and even had a child together, but it wasn’t long before Gainsbourg was on to marriage number three.
Born in 1946, Jane Birkin was an upper-middle-class Englishwoman 18 years younger than Gainsbourg. They met on the set of the film Slogan, in which Serge had a small acting role. Birkin had recently split up with her first husband, the film composer John Barry, and fell for Gainsbourg. “He was mesmerising company,” she says. “His talent and odd sense of shyness seemed to demand affection.”
Their union was not without controversy after they wrote and produced the song ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’ which contained explicit lyrics and orgasmic moans. The song was banned by numerous radio stations including the BBC and the Vatican declared it was ‘offensive’..
Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin
Together they had a daughter, Charlotte, and also brought up Jane’s earlier daughter, the photographer Kate Barry. They split in 1980, with Birkin citing Gainsbourg’s alcoholism. “He was insupportable, so drunk and so difficult,” she says. “He would come home at 4am and be so drunk he couldn’t get his key in the front door.” She left Gainsbourg for the film director Jacques Doillon.
After the divorce, Gainsbourg was rumoured to be involved with the actress Catherine Deneuve. Instead, he entered into what would end up as the longest relationship of his life, with Bambou, a Eurasian model and singer a quarter-century his junior. They were together until his death in 1991.
info: The Guardian