For a generation (or two or three) of women, Serge Gainsbourg was the epitome of French debauched sexiness. For musicians and music lovers, he was highly-acclaimed, especially in his own country.
He died in 1991 but the house that he lived in from the late nineteen sixties until his death has tourists flocking to it, even after all this time. And it’s not a particularly picturesque place, nor is it a museum that can be visited. It’s more of a shine to the man who was described by the president of France as ‘our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire. Her elevated the song to the level of art‘.
Gainsbourg was not a conventional man. To begin with, his looks were less than perfect to say the least. He had a ‘lived in’ face, was too skinny and his appearance has been described as similar to ‘an elegant turtle’. His lifestyle and his works were equally unconventional.
But to the French, and increasingly to people all over the world, he was a part of the culture of the day. Best known as a musician and composer, he was also a filmmaker, a painter, a poet, an actor and intellectual. And a lover – his most famous relationships were with Brigitte Bardot and English actress Jane Birkin, his long-time lover.
When he died, his home became a shrine. Even during his lifetime, the exterior was covered in Gainsbourg-related graffiti (or street art as many of us prefer to call it) and that hasn’t diminished to this day. Periodically the authorities in this rather posh neighbourhood have the graffiti painted over only to see it overpainted with more by the next day.
Now owned by his actress daughter Charlotte, with whom he controversially duetted on a song called Lemon Incest when she was a young teenager, the house remains untouched since Gainsbroug’s death. Although Charlotte had intended to have the premises made into a museum in her father’s memory, the logistics were too complex for the local government to allow.
Nevertheless, the exterior of the house is an incredibly popular tourist attraction for visitors to Paris.
Many people outside France know little about Serge Gainsbourg’s music but the chances are that they do know this one, dating from 1969. It features the ‘elegant turtle’ and his then-lover, Jane Birkin.
In many countries the song became even more well-known as the soundtrack seemed to indicate that the couple were making love when they recorded it. They weren’t, of course! But back in those days, it was considered to be too risqué for general broadcasting – a surefire road to fame.
HOW TO FIND THE SERGE GAINSBOURG HOUSE
Serge Gainsbourg House
5 bis Rue de Verneuil,
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.