Serge Gainsbourg (real name Lucien Ginsburg) was born on 2 April 1928 in Paris, into a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, painters and musicians. He had a twin sister named Liliane and an older sister, Jacqueline. In 1932, ten years after their arrival in France, the family obtained French nationality. During the Second World War, they took refuge in the Sarthe region before moving to Limoges. After the war, the family moved back to Paris, where Serge Gainsbourg enrolled in the Beaux-Arts.
Serge Gainsbourg made his debut in 1954 as a pianist in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Seduced by Boris Vian's realistic verve, to resist the yéyé years, he adopted a singular, offbeat style, fuelled by double meanings and erotic allusions (Les sucettes à l'anis, 1965).
The 1970s saw the rise of this lucid and modern poet, often with literary, Anglo-Saxon and mixed influences (L'ami caouette, Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais, Couleur café...), who wrote for many performers. His feminine passions inspired him to write cult songs (Je t'aime... moi non plus). At the height of the disco period, he recorded the hit Sea, Sex and Sun for the film Les Bronzés in 1978. The following year, his album Aux armes et caetera was a great success.
The 1980s marked the beginning of the Gainsbarre years. Despite his successes, the artist became more self-conscious and displayed a provocative image in the media. He recorded the albums Love on the Beat (1984) and You're under arrest (1987) in New York, then published a compilation in a nine-CD box set, De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre, in 1989.
In 1990, he wrote the lyrics for Vanessa Paradis' album Variations sur le même t'aime.
Serge Gainsbourg died on 2 March 1991 at his home in Paris. In 1995, he was posthumously awarded the César for best music for Jean Becker's film Elisa.
In his private life, after a first marriage in 1951 to Elisabeth Levitsky, he married Françoise-Antoinette Pancrazzi, known as Béatrice, in January 1964. The couple had two children: Natacha (1964) and Paul (1967). Serge Gainsbourg had a romance with Brigitte Bardot for a few months in 1967. He met British actress Jane Birkin in 1968 on the set of the film Slogan, with whom he had a daughter, Charlotte, in 1971. The couple separated in 1980. He then lived with the model Bambou, who gave him a son, Lucien, in 1986.
Photo: Radio Nova