Musique en ligne

SERGE GAINSBOURG

Author, Composer, Performer

Country : France

Born : 2 avril 1928 - Paris, FRA

RIP : 2 mars 1991 - Paris, FRA


He was born Lucien Ginzburg in Paris, France, the son of Russian Jewish parents who fled to France after the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. His childhood was profoundly affected by the occupation of France by Nazi Germany, during which he and his family, as Jews, were forced to wear the yellow star and eventually flee from Paris.

He had a daughter, actress Charlotte, with English singer and actress Jane Birkin; and a son, Lucien (best known as Lulu), with his last partner, Bambou (Caroline von Paulus, who is related to Friedrich Paulus).

Before he was 30 years old, Lucien Ginzburg was a disillusioned painter but earned his living as a piano player in bars.

His early songs were influenced by Boris Vian and were largely in the vein of "old-fashioned" chanson. Very early, however, Gainsbourg began to move beyond this and experiment with a succession of different musical styles: jazz early on, English pop in the 60s, reggae in the 70s, even electronica and hip hop in the 80s.

Success began to arrive when, in 1965, his song "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" was the Luxembourg entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Performed by French teen singer France Gall, it won the grand prize. (The song was covered in English as "A Lonely Singing Doll" by British teen idol Twinkle.) His next song for Gall, "Les Sucettes" ("Lollipops"), began a scandal in France: Gainsbourg had written the song with double-meanings and strong sexual innuendo, of which the singer was apparently unaware when she recorded it. The public furor arising from the song, although a big hit for Gall, threw her career off-track in France for several years. Gainsbourg arranged other Gall songs and LPs that were characteristic of the late 1960s psychedelic styles, among them Gall's 1968 album. Another of Serge's ...

He was born Lucien Ginzburg in Paris, France, the son of Russian Jewish parents who fled to France after the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. His childhood was profoundly affected by the occupation of France by Nazi Germany, during which he and his family, as Jews, were forced to wear the yellow star and eventually flee from Paris.

He had a daughter, actress Charlotte, with English singer and actress Jane Birkin; and a son, Lucien (best known as Lulu), with his last partner, Bambou (Caroline von Paulus, who is related to Friedrich Paulus).

Before he was 30 years old, Lucien Ginzburg was a disillusioned painter but earned his living as a piano player in bars.

His early songs were influenced by Boris Vian and were largely in the vein of "old-fashioned" chanson. Very early, however, Gainsbourg began to move beyond this and experiment with a succession of different musical styles: jazz early on, English pop in the 60s, reggae in the 70s, even electronica and hip hop in the 80s.

Success began to arrive when, in 1965, his song "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" was the Luxembourg entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Performed by French teen singer France Gall, it won the grand prize. (The song was covered in English as "A Lonely Singing Doll" by British teen idol Twinkle.) His next song for Gall, "Les Sucettes" ("Lollipops"), began a scandal in France: Gainsbourg had written the song with double-meanings and strong sexual innuendo, of which the singer was apparently unaware when she recorded it. The public furor arising from the song, although a big hit for Gall, threw her career off-track in France for several years. Gainsbourg arranged other Gall songs and LPs that were characteristic of the late 1960s psychedelic styles, among them Gall's 1968 album. Another of Serge's songs "Boum Bada Boum" was entered in by Monaco in the 1967 contest, sung by Minouche Barelli; it came fifth.

In 1969, he released what would become his most famous song in the English-speaking world, "Je t'aime... moi non plus," which featured simulated sounds of female orgasm. The song appeared that year on an LP, Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg. Originally recorded with Brigitte Bardot, it was released with future girlfriend Birkin when Bardot backed out. While Gainsbourg declared it the "ultimate love song," it was considered too "hot"; the song was censored in various countries, and in France even the toned-down version was suppressed. The Vatican made a public statement citing the song as offensive. Its notoriety led it to reaching no. 1 in the UK singles chart. A long-standing rumor maintains that Gainsbourg and Birkin were actually having sex during the recording session.

His most influential work came near the start of the 70s with Histoire de Melody Nelson, released in 1971. This concept album, produced and arranged by Jean-Claude Vannier, tells the story of a Lolita-esque affair, with Gainsbourg as the narrator and Jane Birkin as the eponymous English heroine. It features prominent string arrangements and even a massed choir at its tragic climax. At the time, sales were poor, but the album has proven influential with artists such as Air, David Holmes, and Beck.

In 1975, he released the album Rock Around the Bunker, a rock album written entirely on the subject of the Nazis. Gainsbourg used black humour, as he and his family suffered during World War II. While a child in Paris, Gainsbourg himself had worn the yellow badge as the mark of a Jew.

The next year saw the release of another major work, L'Homme à Tête de Chou (Cabbage-Head Man), featuring the new character Marilou and sumptuous orchestral themes.

In Jamaica in 1978 he recorded "Aux Armes et cetera," a reggae version of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise," with Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, and Rita Marley. This song earned him death threats from right-wing veterans of the Algerian War of Independence who were opposed to certain lyrics. Shortly afterward, Gainsbourg bought the original manuscript of "La Marseillaise." He was able to reply to his critics that his version was, in fact, closer to the original as the manuscript clearly shows the words "Aux armes et cætera..." for the chorus.

The next year saw him in the new look of Gainsbarre, officially introduced in the song "Ecce Homo."

In the 1980s, approaching the end of his life, Gainsbourg became a regular figure on French TV. His appearances seemed devoted to his controversial sense of humour and provocation. He would frequently show up drunk and unshaven on stage. Perhaps his most famous incident came when, on Michel Drucker's live Saturday evening show with the American singer Whitney Houston, he exclaimed to the host, "I want to fuck her."

During this period he released Love on the Beat, a controversial electronic album with highly sexual themes in the lyrics, and his last studio album, You're Under Arrest, (which saw him adapt his style to the hip-hop genre), as well as two live recordings. His third and last Eurovision Song Contest entry came in 1990 with the French entry "White and Black Blues," sung by Joëlle Ursull. It came second in a tie with Ireland.

His songs became increasingly eccentric during this period, ranging from the anti-drug "Aux Enfants de la Chance" to the duet with his daughter Charlotte named "Lemon Incest." This translates as "Inceste de citron", a wordplay on "un zeste de citron" (a lemon zest). The title demonstrates Gainsbourg's love for puns (another example of which is Bowie, Beau oui comme Bowie).

During his career, he wrote the soundtracks for more than 40 films. In 1996, he received a César Award for Best Music Written for a Film for Élisa, along with Zbigniew Preisner and Michel Colombier.

He directed four movies: Je t'aime... moi non plus, Équateur, Charlotte For Ever and Stan The Flasher.

Gainsbourg died on March 2, 1991 of a heart attack and was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, in Paris. His funeral brought Paris to a standstill, and French President François Mitterrand said of him, "He was our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire... He elevated the song to the level of art." His home at the well-known address 5bis rue de Verneuil is still covered in graffiti and poems.

Since his death, Gainsbourg's music has reached an iconic stature in France. His lyrical brilliance in French has left an extraordinary legacy. His music, always progressive, covered many styles: jazz, ballads, mambo, lounge, reggae, pop (including adult contemporary pop, kitsch pop, yé-yé pop, '80s pop, pop-art pop, prog pop, space-age pop, psychedelic pop, and erotic pop), disco, calypso, Africana, bossa nova, and rock and roll. He has gained a following in the English-speaking world with many non-mainstream artists finding his imaginative and eclectic arrangements highly influential.

He is also considered to be one of the first music pop artists of the late 1960s. While artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein explored modern iconographic consumer culture through painting, Gainsbourg explored similar territory in music with songs such as "Comic Strip," "Ford Mustang," "Qui est In Qui est Out," and "Teenie Weenie Boppie."

One of the most frequent interpreters of Gainsbourg's songs was British singer Petula Clark, whose success in France was propelled by her recordings of his tunes. In 2003, she wrote and recorded La Chanson de Gainsbourg as a tribute to the composer of some of her biggest hits.

Serge has had a profound influence on many contemporary musicians, especially in England where he strived to be as important and well-known as he was in France. He is now achieving this with many American and British artists who, from the last 15 years, have cited him as crucial to them: Beck, Blur, Pulp, and Suede.

His lyrics are collected in the volume Dernières nouvelles des étoiles.

Serge GAINSBOURG

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