Serge Gainsbourg was a poet of the French new wave, an infamous scoundrel, a pop music pioneer, and one our style icons at Sine Qua Non. He was not conventionally attractive, but his disheveled hair and tired eyes made it seem like he had just gotten out of bed after being out all night– probably having a great time in the process.
It’s clear that Gainsbourg was more concerned with living an interesting life than being a style icon, but we admire his rakish style nonetheless. He favored close-fitting suits, pointed boots, a five o’clock shadow, and (as an accessory) a cigarette. His awareness of his own homeliness was part of his charm. “Ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts,” Gainsbourg once said.
Serge Gainsbourg had relationships with some of the most beautiful women in France. He notoriously went on a date with a married Brigitte Bardot, after which he wrote two of the sexiest love songs in recent history (Bonnie et Clyde and Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus). When Bardot and Gainsbourg dueted on Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus, the finished recording was so steamy that Bardot begged Gainsbourg not to release it. Bardot’s marriage and her affair with Gainsbourg ended shortly after, and the recording was shelved until 1986.
Gainsbourg had a unique vocal style, and his music often had extended interludes of heavy breathing and/or moaning. This was universally shocking for the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and his music was widely banned from radio. Today’s pop music would not be the same without Gainsbourg’s trailblazing double entendres and ever-present background groaning.
Gainsbourg lived life to the fullest, which (for him) included smoking and drinking with reckless abandon. When he suffered his first heart attack at 45, Gainsbourg insisted on bringing his Hermes blanket into the ambulance– refusing to compromise his exquisite french taste for anything.
I had a heart attack. It proves that I have a heart.
We admire how unapologetically vibrant Serge Gainsbourg’s life was. He had incredible wit and self-awareness, and a healthy disregard for the conventions of his time. He inspires us to take risks, live hard, and to love as many people as possible.