Jane Birkin: with Serge Gainsbourg, a chaotic love story

JANE BIRKIN. This Friday, September 16, France 3 broadcasts the documentary “Jane et nous”, which looks back on the life of the singer.

[Mis à jour le 16 septembre à 19h55] Jane Birkin and us : this Friday, September 16, France 3 is broadcasting a portrait of the singer, directed by Thierry Gautier and Sylvain Leduc and written by Didier Varrod. A dive into the incredible life of Jane Birkin, illustrated by archival footage, anecdotes and, of course, music. The opportunity to return to one of the most inseparable people in his life, Serge Gainsbourg.

Together, they formed one of the most legendary couples in French song. The two artists meet on the set of the film Slogan, by Pierre Grimblat, while the young woman replaces the actress Marisa Berenson. They appear during a dinner at Maxim’s, in Paris: it is the beginning of their romance which will make a lot of ink flow in the late 1960s. For ten years, their idyll will fascinate the French. The most prominent couple in the capital lives in Paris, with Jane Birkin’s first daughter, Kate. On July 12, 1971 a daughter was born, Charlotte Gainsbourgin a clinic in London.

Quickly, the tabloid press speaks of marriage: it will not happen. In 1975, it was in Serge Gainsbourg’s first film, I love you too, she reappears. A feature film that won her the César for best actress. Serge Gainsbourg will offer Jane Birkin several of her most beautiful songs, in particular thanks to the soundtrack of I love you, me neither. But in 1980, Jane Birkin left the sulphurous singer. In question ? The addiction to alcohol, even the violence of Serge Gainsbourg. The Briton will find love again in the arms of director Jacques Douillon, with whom she will have another daughter, Lou, in September 1982.

Short biography of Jane Birkin

Singer, actress, screenwriter, director, muse… Jane Birkin is one of the artists who can boast of having crossed the ages in the French (and British) musical landscape. She was born on December 14, 1946 in Marylebone, London, United Kingdom. Daughter of British actress Judy Campbell and David Birkin, a commander in the Royal Navy who helped the French Resistance during the Second World War, Jane Birkin is passionate about comedy and is destined for a career as an actress.

She made her theater debut at just 17 years old. At 18, in England, she plays in The Knack… and how to get it, by Richard Lester. His first role. After playing in Graham Greene and the musical comedy Passion flower hostshe continues with a very remarkable performance in blow up d’Antonioni, crowned with the Palme d’Or at the Festival Cannes in 1967. In April that year, Jane Birkin had a daughter, Kate, from her marriage to English composer John Barry.

The life and career of Jane Birkin is also intimately linked to that of Serge Gainsbourg. In 1969, she headlined Slogan by his side. Together, they will become a famous couple and the latter allows the actress to start a singing career in parallel. In 1975, she played the lead role in the highly controversial I love you too by Serge Gainsbourg. Three years later, she followed up with three films by Jacques Doillon, including The Pirate which reinforces her status as a talented actress and allows her to play under the direction of recognized directors. For the rivetshe plays in Love on the ground as well as The Beautiful Noiseuse followed by Jane B. by Agnes V., Varda’s Kung Fu Master and finally Daddy Nostalgia by Tavernier.

An accomplished artist with many facets, she is omnipresent in all fields, cinema, auteur films, theater, music. However, it will begin to become rare from the 1990s, but nevertheless appears in We know the song in 1997, Married but not too in 2003 but also If you die, I kill you in 2011.

Jane Birkin in 6 cult songs

If she came to France to play comedy, Jane Birkin has become one of the cult singers of French musical heritage. In particular thanks to several titles, which have entered the pantheon of cult songs. One could quote, of course, we have already spoken about it, I love you, me neitherwith Serge Gainsbourg, just like Ballad of Melody Nelson in 1971, Ballad of Johnny Jane in 1976, Running away from happiness lest it run away in 1983, but also do you remember and My name is Jane in 2004, two pieces taken from his album Appointment.

Jane Birkin facing the disease

After having released several albums and chained tours, Jane Birkin, in 2012, was forced to cancel a series of concerts in France. In question ? An “acute pericarditis followed by multiple recurrences”, which forced her to “complete rest”, was it announced by her manager Olivier Gluzman in June that year. Acute pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, a membrane that surrounds the heart muscle. A disease that had turned into leukemia. “We go to the hospital for pericarditis, then for the water around the lungs, we remove a liter and a half, but after that, it’s the blood cells that start to prank you”, explained the artist in Gala in 2013, describing “an autoimmune disease, in a rather poetic genre.” For several months, the disease pushed Jane Birkin to withdraw from the media scene, to treat her leukemia at the Avicenne hospital in Bobigny. A few years later, on the occasion of the release of Birkin / Gainsbourg: The symphonicshe explained that she “was fine”, while making a sad observation: “I understood that, like it or not, I no longer had ten years ahead of me”.

Jane Birkin and the death of her daughter Kate

Kate Barry is the first daughter of Jane Birkin, born in London on April 8, 1967 from her marriage to film composer John Barry. A portrait photographer, she spent her life in Paris. When her parents separated, from her first months, Kate Barry was raised by Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin’s new husband, then, in her adolescence, by Jacques Doillon, in a relationship with the singer from 1980 to 1992. In 1984, Kate Birkin is a graduate of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. Discreet and reserved, the young woman fell into alcohol and drug addiction. In 1993, she was behind the creation of Apte (Aid and prevention of drug addiction through mutual aid), based on a London model.

But on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, everything changed. Kate Barry is found dead after falling from the 4th floor of the building where she lived in Paris. She was 46 years old. According to the investigators, who quickly favored the thesis of the defenestration, the photographer was alone in the apartment, closed from the inside, and antidepressants were found on the scene. A terrible drama for Jane Birkin, who confided very little in this regard. However, in 2018, she had said a few words about the death of her eldest daughter at the microphone of France Inter. “When my daughter died, I lost that confidence (about her abilities as a mother, editor’s note). I didn’t know what to do anymore. I was out of life, finally I was living a kind of life in parallel” , confided the singer.

Jane Birkin suffers a “light stroke”

At the start of the 2021 school year, Jane Birkin had to cancel her visit to the Deauville American film festival, after being the victim of a “mild form of cerebrovascular accident” (CVA), her relatives said in a press release published by AFP in early September 2021. Jane Birkin “is doing well”, added the document, which detailed that this stroke occurred “a few days ago.” “She is doing well, so her relatives want us to respect the tranquility necessary for her recovery. Jane is eager to find her audience”, could we read in the press release sent to the same source by her agent.

Jane Birkin was therefore unable to go to the Deauville American Film Festival, but also had to cancel her trip to the Ciné Rencontres festival in the Cotentin, where she was expected for the documentary film Jane by Charlottedirected by his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg and presented out of competition this summer at the Cannes Film Festival.

A week after the announcement of the “slight stroke” suffered by Jane Birkin, her city, Charlotte Gainsbourg, had in turn given news. “I have a message from my mother. I had her earlier and I know that people are worried about her. She is fine (…) I asked her if she wanted me to say something. She told me ‘that everything is fine and that the Nantes University Hospital is great'”, explained the actress and singer during the American film festival in Deauville, according to AFP.

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Jane Birkin: with Serge Gainsbourg, a chaotic love story