“Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus”, a steamy duet by Serge Gainsbourg and his young lover, the English beauty, Jane Birkin emerged out of the free-love era of the late 60’s and captured a moment in time of French joie de vivre. This rogue and the ingénue then became the couple du jour.
The title which translates as “I Love You…Me Neither” was a reference to what Salvador Dali had reportedly said, “Picasso is Spanish-me too. Picasso is a painter-me too. Picasso is a Communist-me neither”. Slightly absurdist but it was just the kind of word play that Serge loved to employ in his songs.
Banned by the BBC and The Vatican, it served only to quicken their cult status. Curiously, Serge had originally written and recorded the song with Bridget Bardot but when she declined releasing it, Jane who had met and fallen in love with Serge on the set of the 1969 film, Slogan, seized the opportunity. The song went on to define their relationship and seared their iconic union in the national psyche.
“Ugliness is superior to beauty because it lasts longer.”
With her insouciant Anglo-chic, she moved to Paris where the French took to her like marmite to a baguette. They went on to make films and albums together as well as produce unfairly talented progeny, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. Their 14 year-affair was a grand amour filled with champagne parties and even grander gestures of love such as the time Jane threw herself into the Seine upset after he had tipped everything out of her basket bag for his friends to see. (The very same wicker basket perhaps, that she used to carry before a chance meeting with the Hermes CEO on a flight from London to Paris, prompted him to design a more practical bag for her – the famed Birkin bag.)
Even after she walked out on him, pregnant with the child to Jacques Doillon, the two still continually worked together. He wrote some of his most heartfelt songs for her with lyrics that suited her fluted waspy voice. And upon his death in 1998, Jane accompanied Serge’s then girlfriend – Bambou Gainsbourg, to the Cemetiere Montparnasse to sort out his final resting place amongst the poets and artists. Today, more than two decades after his passing, Jane a great humanitarian still sings his songs around the world. She spent much time raising money and awareness for the Free Burma campaign and more recently, for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Serge had left his paramour a portion of his music royalties allowing his muse to forever sing his words.
Text by Celine Teo-Blockey