If you only know Serge Gainsbourg for the raunchy ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’, then you may think that he is just a one-trick pony. Yet Gainsbourg’s career spanned decades, and he experimented with various musical styles. Here are some of my favourite Gainsbourg songs – don’t be put off if you don’t understand French.
1. Initials B.B
Written about Brigitte Bardot after the end of their affair, this is one of my top three Gainsbourg songs, the other two being listed below. If you’ve seen the film ‘Gainsbourg’, this is the song played when Bardot makes her entrance.
2. Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais
Or, I came to tell you that I’m leaving. I love the sad irony of those words. Maybe it’s something only the French could do so well. Beautiful, melancholy and gently emotional.
3. Requiem Pour Un Con
This is translated by most as ‘Requiem for a jerk’. I’d say it was something a little stronger – can any French speakers enlighten us? Anyway, it’s a damn good song.
4. Les Sucettes
Gainsbourg apparently managed to fool innocent young France Gall into thinking that she was singing about lollipops. The song wasn’t actually about sucking lollipops, but something else … he was a one, eh, that Gainsbourg?
5. Comic Strip
One of his weirder songs, definitely! This duet with Brigitte Bardot had a lot of that sixties vibe going on …
6. Souviens-toi De M’oublier
This was one of Gainsbourg’s duets with Catherine Deneuve. ‘Remember to Forget Me’ – the guy certainly had a genius when it came to words. And isn’t the French language just beautiful …
7. Comme Un Boomerang
Have you ever known you were going to love a song from the first few moments? It happened to me when I first heard this. One of Gainsbourg’s less experimental songs, this is simply beautiful and full of feeling, like ‘Je suis venu …’. I could, and do, listen to this over and over again.
And now for something completely different … Gainsbourg was certainly varied and experimental during his long career. Someone should make a 10 minute version of this psychedelic – and slightly hypnotic – instrumental. It’s far too short!
I hope I’ve encouraged you to investigate the genius that is Serge Gainsbourg. His work was so varied that you’re bound to find something you enjoy. As well as listening to these, try some other random songs and see what you discover!