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Singer & Actress Jane Birkin, A French Icon, Dies At 76

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Jane Birkin, British-born actress and singer and a French icon has died aged 76.

She was battling cancer with courage and strength. She suffered from a mild attack in 2021 and had a medical history of heart problems. Birkin died at her home in Paris where she spent her last few days. Her life and works will remain memorable and cherished worldwide.

Early Life & career

She was born as Jane Mallory Birkin in London in December 1946 to British actress Judy Campbell and Royal Navy commander David Birkin.

She moved to France in late 1960s and made it her second home and collaborated with French singer Serge Gainsbourg. She acted in a number of films and sang numerous songs and her performance as both made her the icon she had always been. Her warm nature and fight for women’s and LGBT rights won people’s hearts.

She started her career at the age of 17 and appeared in the 1965 musical “Passion Flower Hotel” by conductor and composer John Barry. She married Barry soon after but could not save it after late 1960s.

One of her film roles gained her notoriety when she filmed naked in a threesome sex scene in the 1966 film “Blow-Up” directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. But her 1969 film with then-lover, the late French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg made her immensely famous. She and Gainsbourg sang the sexually explicit “Je t’aime…moi non plus” in the movie.

Her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg on the set of the film “Slogan” in 1969 became a national sensation. But she broke up with her in 1981 due to his habit of drinking but remained in touch until his death in 1991.

France gave her the fame and prosperity she worked for. And even after her break up she did not stop her career and continued her acting while releasing albums like “Baby Alone in Babylone” in 1983, and “Amour des Feintes” in 1990, both the songs were written and composed by Gainsbourg.

Her own album “Arabesque” in 2002, and in 2009 released a collection of live recordings, “Jane at the Palace”.

Nation mourns her death

Mourning her death, the French Culture Ministry said the nation had lost a “timeless Francophone icon”. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that the “most Parisian of the English has left us. We will never forget her songs, her laughs and her incomparable accent which always accompanied us.”

French singer Etienne Daho was the last one to produce and compose Birkin’s album in 2020. He said “It’s unimaginable to live in a world without you.”

During the 1990s Jane Birkin inspired the famous ‘Birkin bag’ by French luxury house Hermes. CEO Jean-Louis Dumas gained the idea after seeing her making efforts to save the straw bag’s items from falling but nonetheless they spilled over the floor on a flight to London.

She has left behind two daughters. Charlotte Gainsbourg is a singer and actress born in 1971 and actress Lou Doillon, with husband Jacques Doillon with whom Birkin was living since 1981, born in 1982. Her first daughter, Kate Barry, was born in 1967 and died by felling from her apartment in Paris in 2013.

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