(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.
- Immediate Self-Contradiction: Je t' aime... moi non plus (I love you... me neither)
- 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".
- 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.
- Lolicon: Recorded and wrote a lot of songs with and for female singers several years younger than him.
- 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: He adored this trope:
- 69 Année Érotique
- La Décadanse (pun on decadence and dance)
- Les Sucettes (French for lollys, but also slang for fellatio)
- Refuge in Audacity: The album Rock Around The Bunker (particularly the opening song "Nazi Rock"). "Lemon Incest" was also made with this intention. Aux Armes Etc, a reggae arrangement of the French national anthem, enfuriated French nationalists and Je T' Aime... Moi Non Plus prudent listeners. Apart from that he caused many scandals by appearing drunk on TV and insulting other guests.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: In the song "Comic Strip" typical comic strip onomatopeia are imitated: Clip! Crap! Bang! Vlop! Zip! Shebam! Pow! Blop! Wizz!
- 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 reference to Jacques Prévert.
- Docteur Jekyll et Monsieur Hyde references Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- Bonnie & Clyde was recorded after Gainsbourg saw Bonnie and Clyde.
- 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.
- Stock Sound Effects: A woman mimicking orgasm in Je t' aime... moi non plus.
- Suicide as Comedy: Le Poinçonneur des Lilas sings about a ticket salesman who cuts holes in tickets for first and second class, then eventually gets fed up with this tedious profession and decides to buy a gun to make the "final hole", so that they can put him in his own "big hole in the ground".
- 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.
- Troll: His infamous output of sexual songs, especially the France Gall incident and the orgasms in Je t' aime... moi non plus. It's like he was only in the business to make fun of Moral Guardians.
- Written Sound Effect: Comic Strip uses onomatopeia in the refrain.
- You Make Me Sic: "En Relisant Ta Lettre".