Remembering Jane Birkin: The Iconic British Singer and Actress Who Transformed French Culture

Xavier Roger
Jane Birkin in 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival in France.Credit...Stephane Cardinale/Corbis, via Getty Images
Jane Birkin in 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival in France.Credit...Stephane Cardinale/Corbis, via Getty Images
Jane Birkin in 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Image Credit – Stephane Cardinale/Corbis, via Getty Images


Jane Birkin, the renowned British singer and actress who achieved great success in France, passed away at the age of 76, as reported by CNN affiliate BFMTV on Sunday. Birkin, who relocated to France at the age of 20 without knowing the French language, spent nearly six decades in the spotlight and was affectionately known as France’s beloved “anglaise.”

Shortly after arriving in Paris, Birkin’s rise to fame began when she fell in love with French actor and singer Serge Gainsbourg. Despite Gainsbourg being nearly 20 years older than Birkin, the couple captured widespread public fascination and collaborated professionally. Their memorable performance of the sultry duet “Je t’aime… moi non plus” resulted in the song being banned in several countries due to its explicit lyrics.

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after news of Birkin’s passing, praising her as a French icon who embodied freedom and sang the most beautiful words in the French language.

While her relationship with Gainsbourg brought Birkin widespread recognition, she soon became a star in her own right and a fashion icon in France, despite her British background. She even inspired the creation of the iconic Birkin bag by the French luxury house, Hermes.

“Although my mom represents a very Parisian style, which is funny because she’s not,” her daughter Lou Doillon shared with CNN in 2017.

The cause of Birkin’s death is currently unknown, but she had been in poor health in recent years and suffered a stroke in 2021. One of her final public appearances was at the premiere of the documentary “Jane by Charlotte,” which explored Birkin’s relationship with her daughter Charlotte.

Jane Birkin is survived by her daughters, Lou Doillon and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, whom she had with Serge. Tragically, another daughter, Kate Barry, passed away in 2013 at the age of 46.

Born in London in 1946, Jane Birkin married the legendary British composer John Barry in 1965, but their marriage ended shortly after and Birkin described it as a “really miserable marriage.”

In 1968, Birkin traveled to Paris to work on the film “Slogan,” where she met Gainsbourg. He went on to write “Je t’aime… moi non plus” for her, and the song became an international hit that same year.

Birkin established herself as a beloved figure in French cinema, appearing in over 70 films and collaborating with esteemed directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, and Bertrand Tavernier. She gained recognition for her performances in notable movies like “Blow-Up” (1966), “La Piscine” (The Swimming Pool) in 1969, and “Death on the Nile” (1978).

Despite the end of Gainsbourg and Birkin’s tumultuous relationship in 1981, they remained on good terms and continued to collaborate on artistic projects.

In 1985, Birkin received her first Cesar nomination for her role in the film “La Pirate,” directed by Jacques Doillon, with whom she later had a daughter.

Alongside her successful acting and music career, Birkin made a significant impact on the fashion industry by co-creating the iconic Birkin bag. In a 2020 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Birkin shared how a chance encounter with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermes, on an Air France flight led to the creation of the coveted bag. The Birkin bag, introduced in 1984, remains one of the most recognized and sought-after accessories in the world.

Even after almost 40 years since its launch, rare variations of the Birkin bag command high prices at auctions, and the demand for this timeless style continues to exceed supply in boutiques, as reported by British Vogue.

Jane Birkin’s legacy encompasses her contributions to music, film, and fashion, leaving an indelible mark on French and international culture. Her talent, charisma, and enduring influence will be remembered for years to come.


Source – CNN

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