Quick program note: I’ll be catching up on posts shortly – been enjoying a steady stream of houseguests and time away at the beach and also overwhelmed by evil taxes and home improvement projects gone terribly awry!
In the interim, if the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is an indicator, the Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited English-language tribute album should be hitting US stores this upcoming Tuesday. The effort is a bit spotty – as most projects of this sort tend to be - but worth checking out. I posted my take some time back.
Also, after the jump, I’ve included the full text of a Gainsbourg article that the Guardian ran recently (after the jump). They gave the compilation an unenthusiastic review by the way and pointed out that Gainsbourg’s oeuvre is better appreciated in his native French.
I also strongly urge readers to head over to Monsieur Guuzbourg’s place, Filles Sourires, for his beautifully-curated series on French actresses songbirds!
Gainsbourg, je t'aime
Death has not withered France
Angelique Chrisafis Friday April 14, 2006
Friday April 14, 2006
'I just want to stand here contemplating him in silence," said the Frenchwoman slowly exhaling a thick waft of cheroot smoke towards the shrine of her hero. It was an ordinary Sunday afternoon outside 5 bis Rue Verneuil on Paris's left bank, the house where French pop legend Serge Gainsbourg once lived, in rooms painted black from floor to ceiling and with no mirrors to reflect his reptilian ugliness.
It was here that in 1991, aged 62, his famous passion for Gitanes and alcohol finally killed him with a heart attack in his front room - 20 years earlier, when he was pulled out on a stretcher after his first heart attack, he demanded that paramedics fetch a cashmere rug from his bedroom, as the regulation red and orange blanket clashed and photographers might be outside.
For 15 years, the graffitied tributes and poetry scrawled on the wall by fans has been growing. The multicoloured "wall of Serge" sprawls for metres along the otherwise impeccably manicured street in one of Paris
In Britain Vatican
His lyrics, on subjects from the working-class man, tributes to French poets, Frenchmen falling for underage English girls, as well as incest and farting, are published in books as poetry and studied in French universities. He ventured into jazz, disco, rap, made a rock album about Nazis (he was the son of Russian Jews made to wear the yellow star in wartime Paris) and flew to Jamaica to make a reggae album, infuriating Bob Marley, who discovered that his wife Rita had been made to sing erotic lyrics on the backing track.
President Mitterrand said Gainsbourg "elevated song to the level of art". Jack Lang, the former culture minister, said that he "personified a certain ideal of freedom". Last month, to mark the 15th anniversary of his death, the daily newspaper Libération devoted a front page to his silhouette, French TV ran hours of footage and old interviews ranging from his declarations - "I am the new wave" - to his debauched insults of later years. Record shops in Paris
Next month's tribute album, by fans ranging from Franz Ferdinand to Tricky and Portishead, is not the first. Nick Cave
Born Lucien Ginsburg, Gainsbourg changed his name to sound more French and made it his life's work to enjoy as many women, cigarettes and drinks as possible while giving the finger to decorum. He bought a Rolls-Royce, but couldn't drive so used it as an "ashtray". He had an affair with Bardot, for whom he wrote Je T'aime, and joined her in their famous Bonnie and Clyde
Desperately conscious of his ugliness, he surrounded himself with beautiful women and indulged in his alcoholism as the caricature alter-ego he called "Gainsbarre", who liked to hijack televised interviews. He made rock'n'roll TV history when, on France Houston
Birkin later said that for the 13 years she lived there, she was not allowed to touch anything in his obsessively ordered house - which he called a "museum". Look Pretty and Shut Up was the title of one of his hits. He was desperate for love, and when, ageing and debauched, he appeared on a French TV show surrounded by 60 adoring children dressed as mini-Serges in jeans and white shoes and with little Gitanes in their mouths, he was said never to have been happier.
The English tribute album would probably have made him smile and crack open the whisky. A few years ago, Birkin told Le Monde that Gainsbourg got depressed when no one recognised him on the King's Road. "No one came up and asked for his autograph," she said. "So he decided to head home to France
· Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited is released on May 1. Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited Exhibition is at Liberty
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006