Magazine article The New Yorker

Over There

Magazine article The New Yorker

Over There

Article excerpt

Eleven years ago, when Serge Gainsbourg, the Gitane-puffing demigod of French pop, died, France came to a virtual standstill, and President Francois Mitterand publicly eulogized the singer, songwriter, and film star as "our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire." Hyperbole, perhaps, but, as Sylvie Simmons's biography makes clear, there was little about the aggressively louche provocateur--born Lucien Ginsburg--that wasn't hyperbolic. In the breezy SERGE GAINSBOURG: A FISTFUL OF GITANES (Da Capo), Simmons, a veteran British music writer, offers, at last, an English-language glimpse of the best of Serge: his boyhood escape from the Nazis; his understandable affection for tooling around Paris in a Triumph Spitfire with Brigitte Bardot; his porn-watching sessions with Salvador Dali; and his work itself, including the notorious "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus," a sweet, hymnlike ballad that featured Gainsbourg and his lover Jane Birkin in stereophonic flagrante delicto. …

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