Serge Gainsbourg (2 April 1928 – 2 March 1991) was a French singer-songwriter, actor and director.
Gainsbourg's varied musical style and individuality made him difficult to categorize.
His legacy has been firmly established, and he is often regarded as one of the world's most influential musicians.
Serge Gainsbourg arranged other Gall songs and LPs that were characteristic of the late 1960s psychedelic styles, among them Gall's 1968 album.
Another of Serge's songs "Boum Bada Boum" was entered in by Monaco in the 1967 contest, sung by Minouche Barelli; it came fifth. He also wrote hit songs for other artists, such as "Comment Te Dire Adieu" for Françoise Hardy.
In 1969, he released "Je t'aime... moi non plus," which featured simulated sounds of female orgasm.
The song appeared that year on an LP, Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg.
Originally recorded with Brigitte Bardot, it was released with future girlfriend Birkin when Bardot backed out.
While Gainsbourg declared it the "ultimate love song," it was considered too "hot"; the song was censored in various countries, and in France even the toned-down version was suppressed.
The Vatican made a public statement citing the song as offensive. It reached no. 1 in the UK singles chart.
Histoire de Melody Nelson was released in 1971.
This concept album, produced and arranged by Jean-Claude Vannier, tells the story of a Lolita-esque affair, with Gainsbourg as the narrator and Jane Birkin as the eponymous English heroine.
It features prominent string arrangements and even a massed choir at its tragic climax.
The album has proven influential with artists such as Air, David Holmes, Jarvis Cocker, Beck and Dan the Automator.
In 1975, he released the album Rock Around the Bunker, a rock album written entirely on the subject of the Nazis.
Gainsbourg used black humour, as he and his family suffered during World War II.
While a child in Paris, Gainsbourg had worn the yellow badge as the mark of a Jew.
Rock Around the Bunker belonged in the mid-1970s "retro" trend.
The next year saw the release of another major work, L'Homme à tête de chou (Cabbage-Head Man), featuring the new character Marilou and sumptuous orchestral themes.
Cabbage-Head Man is one of his nicknames, as it refers to his ears.
Musically, L'homme à tête de chou turned out to be Gainsbourg's last LP in the English rock style he had favoured since the late 1960s.
He would go on to produce two reggae albums recorded in Jamaica (1979 and 1981) and two electronic funk albums recorded in New York (1984 and 1987).
In Jamaica in 1978 he recorded "Aux Armes et cetera", a reggae version of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise", with Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, and Rita Marley.
This song earned him death threats from right-wing veterans of the Algerian War of Independence who were opposed to certain lyrics.
Bob Marley was furious when he discovered Gainsbourg made his wife Rita Marley sing erotic lyrics.
Shortly afterward, Gainsbourg bought the original manuscript of "La Marseillaise".
He was able to reply to his critics that his version was, in fact, closer to the original as the manuscript clearly shows the words "Aux armes et cætera..." for the chorus.