Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
There was a national outburst of emotion when Serge Gainsbourg died of a heart attack on March 2, 1991: the country was in state of shock. Twenty years on and France still misses him.
Photo: AFP, 1969
Today, Serge is everywhere. His smile, his face, his songs. As if he never disappeared. Open a magazine: there he is. His strange mug. Yet always accompanied by breathtakingly beautiful women. Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Bambou. You name it. A singer and a seducer. Open the daily “Liberation” these days and you’ll get a “poster posthume”, a posthumous poster showing Gainsbourg naked on his bed in his museum-like home at rue Verneuil smoking Gitanes. Switch on the radio and you’ll listen to his songs. “Je t’aime moi non plus”, back then banned by the BBC due to its “explicit content” – and even on French radio only played past 11pm.
In other words: You can’t escape Gainsbourg these days in Paris. But you might wonder why the French are so crazy about this guy? Not only because he was an iconic artist, a kind of cultural hero, I guess. Most of all, he still counts because Serge Gainsbourg was the epitomy of freedom. And you know this: the French love nothing more than their freedom.
Remember the day when he burnt a 500 franc note live on French TV. It was in protest against heavy taxation. But first and foremost it was a provocation, an offensive disregard for money for alot of people. They hated him and loved him for this.
Remember the day when he sang a Reggae version of the Marseillaise: “aux armes et caetera…”.
Remember the song recorded with his 12-year-old daughter Charlotte back in 1984, the beloved one, “who was more precious for me than anybody else”, as he said. The title “Lemon incest” instead of zest was clear enough. But the song caused uproar because in the video Charlotte was filmed in a nightshirt and knickers lying on a bed with her topless father, singing about “the love that we will never make together”.
And remember his first heart attack at 45, when he called a press conference from his hospital bed and claimed he would reduce the risk of suffering a second heart attack by “increasing his intake of alcohol and cigarettes”.
It worked out perfectly. Serge Gainsbourg died of another heart attack on March 2, 1991. The end of a guy who always thought it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
After his death, fans flocked to his home in rue Verneuil, covered the wall with adoring graffiti and the floor with flowers. Nothing has changed there since. People still leave their messages. The only one missing is: Serge.