Jane Birkin has died at 76. The singer, actress, and style icon was found at her home in Paris, as Le Parisien reports.
Birkin was born in London in 1946; her mother was stage actress Judy Campbell. She started acting as a teenager and became a part of the Swinging London scene in the 1960s. She picked up a few small film parts in her youth, and drew attention for her role in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blowup, which led to larger roles in Kaleidoscope and Wonderwall. She married James Bond composer John Barry in 1965 and had her first daughter, Kate, in 1967. (Kate Barry passed away in 2013.) Her and Barry were divorced by 1968.
She auditioned for the female lead in the French film Slogan that same year, which is where she met her co-star and future partner Serge Gainsbourg. They performed the film’s theme song together, “La Chanson de Slogan.” The pair soon released their most enduring track, the erotically-charged “Je t’aime… moi non plus,” which appeared on their 1969 album.
A decade’s worth of musical collaborations followed, including appearances on Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson and a string of solo albums throughout the ’70s, including 1975’s Lolita Go Home and 1978’s Ex fan des sixties, both of which were also collaborations with Gainsbourg. Birkin also appeared in Gainsbourg’s 1976 directorial debut Je t’aime moi non plus. Birkin and Gainsbourg had a daughter together, the musician and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who was born in 1971. The pair separated in 1980.
She married director Jacques Doillon in 1980; they had a daughter, Lou Doillon, in 1982. Birkin continued to release music on her own, and she appeared in many films, working with directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, Jacques Rivette, Roger Vadim, and Alain Resnais. She also appeared in the Agatha Christie adaptations Death On The Nile and Evil Under The Sun. She was an inspiration in the fashion world as a socialite and model, as well; in 1984, Hermès executive Jean-Louis Dumas was inspired by Birkin to create a namesake bag.
Birkin’s most recent album was 2020’s Oh! Pardon, tu dormais…; we talked to her about it here. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, issued a statement upon her passing: “Because she embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon. A complete artist, her voice was as sweet as her engagements were fiery. She bequeaths us tunes and images that will never leave us.”