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French Music: Serge Gainsbourg

Serge Gainsbourg was born Lucien Ginsburg in Paris in 1928. After he began writing songs and performing in clubs he changed his name to Serge Gainsbourg. Jane Birkin who was his lover and mother of his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg says he changed his name because he wanted something more punchy and artistic and ‘Lucien’ reminded him of a gentleman’s hairdresser. He was a fascinating character – a rogue and a poet, a louche, chain smoking alcoholic and artist.

One of his most enduring records is “Bonnie and Clyde”. Written by Serge Gainsbourg and performed by Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot whom he first met on the set of a movie in 1959. Later, they carried on a clandestine affair while she was married to playboy Gunther Sachs, and recorded the steamy duet, written by Gainsbourg, “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus.” The record was not released until 1986 as Bardot begged him not to as her husband was furious about the affair. Gainsbourg later recorded it with Jane Birkin and the rest is history – one of the most famous records of all time, banned by the Vatican, and whose sound is unforgettable.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is based on an English language poem written by Bonnie Parker herself a few weeks before she and Clyde Barrow were shot, entitled “The Trail’s End“. The song tells the story of the outlaw couple, their thoughts and feelings. It was released on two albums in 1968: Gainsbourg’s album “Initials B.B.“, and Gainsbourg and Bardot’s album “Bonnie and Clyde“. It has achieved quite legendary status being covered by many famous singers the world over and is featured in the burlesque show scene of the 2007 film Rush Hour 3 and in the 2002 film Laurel Canyon starring Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale.

Serge Gainsbourg died of a heart attack on March 2 1991. In the streets outside his home distraught fans gathered to pay homage to France’s favourite song writer. The funeral was attended by many celebrities – Catherine Deneuve read a eulogy as did President Mitterand, who called him “our Baudelaire“. Brigitte Bardot sent a message “I love him as a man but even more as a musician…

Bonnie and Clyde – the video starring Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot

English language Lyrics to “Bonnie & Clyde”

 Did you read the story of Jesse James?
About how he lived and how he died?
You liked it huh? You want some more
Well then listen to the story of Bonnie and Clyde
 
Okay, so Clyde has a girlfriend
She’s beautiful and her name’s Bonnie
Together they’re the Barrow gang
Their names – Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow
 
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
 
When I came to know Clyde long ago
He was a loyal, honest, upright guy
I really think it’s society
Which has spoilt me forever
 
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
 
Oh what they wrote about her and I
They say we’re cold-blooded killers
It ain’t much fun but we got no choice
But shut them up when they start shouting
 
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
 
Every time a policeman gets killed
Every time a garage or a bank gets robbed
The police has no doubt about it
It was done by Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker
 
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
 
Now whenever we try and settle down
When we go live in a furnished apartment
Three days later it goes tac tac tac
Tommy guns get back on us
 
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
 
Sooner or later we’ll fall together
I don’t care; I’m scared for Bonnie
What does it matter if they freaking kill me
I, Bonnie, am scared for Clyde Barrow
 
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
 
Anyhow they couldn’t get out of trouble
The only way out was death
But more than one followed them to Hell
When Barrow and Bonnie Parker died
 
Bonnie and Clyde
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