(born Lucien Ginsburg, 2 April 1928 – 2 March 1991) was a French singer, pianist, writer, actor, and film director.
He experienced with many genres of music, from the Chanson
and jazz to pop music, electro and reggae. He was a controversial character, who wrote many erotic and polemical songs and until his death was surrounded by a lot of controversy, but was also considered as a poet and a genius, the last of the tradition of the Poètes Maudits
(doomed poets) and adapted many famous poems in songs.
Had somewhat of a Broken Base
during his lifetime, but since his death he is pretty much universally celebrated
In 2010, a biopic was released: Gainsbourg
You may know his daughter Charlotte for her acting work with Lars von Trier
's Depression Trilogy, consisting of Antichrist, Melancholia,
Serge Gainsbourg and his work provide examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Since he was nicknamed "Gainsbarre". He also made a lot of public appearances where he was visibly drunk.
- Anatomically Impossible Sex: In "Je t'aime... moi non plus", there's this lyric that goes "I come and go, between your kidneys". That... just doesn't happen, unless you're impaling the poor woman.
- That's a case of Lost in Translation; the French reins literally means kidneys, but can also be used in the general sense of "loins", and all of a sudden, the anatomy makes sense.
- Black Comedy: Many of his songs have a grim sense of humor.
- Becoming the Mask: With his alter-ego Gainsbarre.
- But Now I Must Go: Je suis venue te dire que je m' en vais.
- Chanson: He is still seen as a chansonnier, despite his music being closer to rock 'n' roll and pop.
- Cool Car: The Rolls-Royce silver ghost from Histoire de Melody Nelson. He himself later bought a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: "Variation Sur Marilou".
- Dark and Troubled Past: His past as a Jew during the Nazi Occupation. Possibly parodied/satirized in the album Rock Around The Bunker.
- Dramatic Irony: He liked to tell the story of how he fought to be the first in line to receive the yellow star, thinking it was a sheriff star.
- Dirty Old Man: "Gainsbarre" especially.
- Eurovision Song Contest: He wrote France Gall's entry Poupée de cire, poupée de son which brought a victory for Luxembourg in 1965. It is also notable for being the first winning song in the contest not to be a ballad.
- He also wrote Monaco's entry in 1967, though not as popular as Poupée.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French
- Expy: Histoire de Melody Nelson is a Concept Album which is heavily based around Lolita.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: He famously wrote a song for then 18-years-old France Gall called "Les Sucettes" ("The Lollipops") about a girl named Annie who loved sucking lollipops (the double entendre meaning fellatio). France Gall claimed she sung it completely innocently, without understanding the sexual meaning of the lyrics.
- The song 69 année érotique ("69, erotic year", being a pun on soixante-neuf, the sexual position where both partners can give themselves oral pleasure)
- Ikea Erotica: "I come and go, between your kidneys"note in Je t'aime moi non plus.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: It happens in some songs in the album Vu De L'Extérieur.
- Intercourse with You: Many. For example, "Je t'aime... moi non plus".
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: He wrote a song about them.
- Kavorka Man: Despite being notoriously ugly and an alcoholic, he had relationships with some of the most beautiful women of his time. He even wrote a song about this: "Des Laids Des Laids".
- Likea Sonto Me: While he may not be biologically related to them, Serge adored Jane Birkin's other daughters Kate Barry and Lou Doillon as much as his other biological children.
- May-December Romance: Jane Birkin was twenty-one when she fell for the thirty-one year old Serge. His last partner, Caroline "Bambou" Paulus, was thirty years his junior.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Caused a stir among French military veterans when he released a reggae version of the French national anthem called "Aux Armes" ("To Arms"), with as only repeated phrase Aux Armes et caetera" ("To arms and so-on!").
- Outlaw Couple: "Bonnie and Clyde" (with Brigitte Bardot).
- Parental Incest: "Lemon Incest" makes ambiguous reference to this. Furthermore, the song is a duet with his daughter, Charlotte, who was twelve years old at the time.
- Pun-Based Title: 69 Année Érotique and La Décadanse (pun on decadence and dance)
- Refuge in Audacity: The album Rock Around The Bunker (particularly the opening song "Nazi Rock"). Also, "Lemon Incest" was made with this intention.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: In the song "Comic Strip" typical comic strip onomatopeia are imitated.
- Je suis te dire que je m' en vais has a shout-out to poet Paul Verlaine: Comm' dit si bien Verlaine au vent mauvais (''As Verlaine mentioned so well in the bad wind"").
- Le chanson de Prévert is a shout-out to Jacques Prévert.
- Smoking Is Cool: It's hard to find a picture of him where he isn't smoking.
- The song Dieu fumeur de havanes even has God smoking havana cigars.
- Spoken Word In Music: A lot, in the Histoire de Melody Nelson album.
- Taxman Takes The Winnings: Gainsbourg once protested during a TV interview against taxes by burning a money bill live on the air. He felt he would rather burn this high amount of money than give it away to the tax institute.
- You Make Me Sic: "En Relisant Ta Lettre".