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Actress and singer Jane Birkin dies, France loses an 'icon'

 Actress and singer Jane Birkin dies, France loses an 'icon'

British-born actress and singer Jane Birkin, known for her iconic status in France, passed away at the age of 76 in Paris. The French Culture Ministry mourned the loss of a "timeless Francophone icon." According to local media, Birkin was found dead at her home. She had previously suffered a mild stroke in 2021, following heart problems in previous years.

Actress and singer Jane Birkin dies, France loses an 'icon'

Jane Birkin gained international recognition for her 1969 hit song "Je t’aime...moi non plus," in which she collaborated with her then-lover, the late French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. The sexually explicit nature of the song drew attention, but Birkin's talent extended beyond that single achievement. She made France her home in the late 1960s and established herself as a singer, actress, and a beloved figure known for her warm nature and unwavering advocacy for women's and LGBT rights.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo described Birkin as the "most Parisian of the English" and expressed gratitude for her songs, laughter, and incomparable accent that had left a lasting impact.

Jane Mallory Birkin was born in London in December 1946 to British actress Judy Campbell and Royal Navy commander David Birkin. Her journey in the entertainment industry began at the age of 17 when she took to the stage and eventually appeared in the 1965 musical "Passion Flower Hotel" by conductor and composer John Barry, whom she married shortly after. However, their marriage ended in the late 1960s.

Before making her mark in France at the age of 22, Birkin gained notoriety through her role in the controversial 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni film "Blow-Up," where she appeared naked in a threesome sex scene. However, it was her time in France that truly propelled her to stardom. Her love affair with the troubled national star Serge Gainsbourg, combined with her tomboyish style and endearing British accent when speaking French, solidified her place in the hearts of the French people.

After her breakup with Gainsbourg in 1981, Birkin continued to pursue her career as a singer and actress. She graced the stage and released albums such as "Baby Alone in Babylone" in 1983 and "Amour des Feintes" in 1990, both featuring lyrics and music by Gainsbourg. In 2002, she wrote her own album titled "Arabesque," followed by the release of a collection of live recordings called "Jane at the Palace" in 2009. French singer Etienne Daho, who produced and composed Birkin's last album in 2020, expressed his disbelief at a world without her.

It was on the set of the film "Slogan" in 1969 that Birkin first crossed paths with Gainsbourg. At the time, Gainsbourg was recovering from a breakup with Brigitte Bardot, and their love affair quickly captivated the nation. They released the provocative song "Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus" ("I Love You... Me Neither") that same year, originally written for Bardot. The song featured Gainsbourg's explicit lyrics punctuated by Birkin's breathy moans and cries.

The song faced condemnation from the BBC and the Vatican, but it further solidified their artistic collaboration. However, Gainsbourg's struggles with alcohol eventually took a toll on their relationship, and Birkin left him in 1981 to live with film director Jacques Doillon. Nevertheless, she remained close to Gainsbourg until his death in March 1991.

During that period, Birkin inspired the creation of the famous Birkin bag by the French luxury house Hermès. Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive of Hermès, witnessed Birkin struggling with her straw bag on a flight to London, resulting in its contents spilling on the floor.

Actress and singer Jane Birkin dies, France loses an 'icon'

Jane Birkin is survived by her two daughters, Charlotte, a singer and actress born in 1971, and Lou Doillon, an actress born in 1982. She also had a daughter named Kate, born in 1967, who sadly passed away in 2013. 

The passing of Jane Birkin leaves a void in the world of entertainment and culture, as well as in the hearts of those who admired her talent, warm personality, and unwavering commitment to advocacy. Her legacy as a beloved figure in France and her contributions to music and cinema will be remembered for years to come.

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