He was a drunkard who smoked three packs a day. He yelled obscenities at world-famous stars and let under aged girls sing about lollipops with anise filling. He wrote a novel about a man who broke toxic winds and recorded the most scandalous number of all times which was banned by the Vatican. Someone like that surely deserves a tribute!
That man is Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991), one of Europe’s most influential songwriters, together with the B’s in ABBA. A man with a treasure trove of great songs full of double entendres and made-up words, which he sang himself, but very often gave to the most beautiful women.
But does everyone in the Netherlands and Belgium know about this? Sure, we did some heavy breathing along to Je t’aime… moi non plus. No wonder it was one of the longest running hit singles in the Netherlands! After he died, The Times wrote in their obituary that the scandals surrounding Gainsbourg are better remembered than his importance to pop music. Scandals like him yelling rude things at Whitney Houston on television or getting the young and innocent France Gall to sing the naughty Les Sucettes are purely entertaining, and yes, they do detract attention from his musical heritage.
Forty years after the release of Je t’aime… moi non plus 18 bands and artists from Belgium and the Netherlands have recorded their favourite Gainsbourg number for Gainsnord. Although their songs are disguised as soul stompers, piano ballads, swinging rumbas and damping dubs, no matter what they’ve done, the numbers are simply brilliant. It just goes to show how much Gainsbourg’s work continues to inspire musicians and bring out the best in them.
In fact, Serge Gainsbourg’s work is celebrated every day. Not a month goes by without someone somewhere recording a new cover. People like actress Victoria Abril, young French singer Julien Doré, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. or singer and presidential spouse Carla Bruni. As well, Beck, Portishead, De La Soul and Sharleen Spiteri have all used fragments of his work.
Serge was a tormented genius. He was shy, but had a sharp tongue. He was ugly, but attractive enough for beautiful women like Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. He was a word wizard who became world-famous with a number that sounded like people having sex. He was a man continuously seeking recognition and acknowledgment; he died in his sleep, alone in his home. Serge was a fascinating hero with an equally fascinating range of works that never seems to get old, except for his films, luckily.
Charlotte Gainsbourg once told me that she is very happy that her father is still so widely appreciated. And as his daughter, she misses him every day. As Serge’s surrogate children, we shouldn’t be sad because we can continue to celebrate his life and his work. Light up at least one Gitanes cigarette while listening to this album.
À la prochaine,
Guuzbourg: guuzbourg (at) gmail (dot) com Sonic Scenery/Peter Boertje: pb (at) essentialdancemusic (dot) com
CD RELEASE: 18 September RELEASE PARTY: 18 September, Upstairs Room Paradiso, Amsterdam feat. Janne Schra, West Hell 5, Suarez, VJs Scopi-tonics, Amsterdam Beat Club-DJ's, women, booze, smoking rooms.