French Actress and Singer Jane Birkin Dies at 76

2017.04.19. Jane Birkin Warsaw Poland Fot Mariusz Kubik

Jane Birkin, the London-born fashion icon, actor, singer, and activist has died in Paris at the age of 76.

Born in London on December 14, 1964, Jane Birkin was the daughter of Judy Campbell, an actress who gained popularity for performing for British troops with Noël Coward during World War II, and Commander David Birkin of the Royal Navy.

Jane Birkin Rise to Fame

Birkin’s rise to fame was largely due to her romantic and musical relationship with Serge Gainsbourg. Their 1969 duet “Je t’aime moi non plus” made Birkin famous. The song was condemned by the Vatican and banned in several countries as well as by the B.C.C. television network. Nevertheless, the song went on to sell millions of copies worldwide.

After meeting on the set of the French film “Slogan,” Birkin and Gainsbourg fell in love and became the “It” couple of France. Their artistic collaboration extended over six of Birkin’s solo albums from 1973 to 1990.

Jane Birkin left Serge Gainsbourg

Birkin left Gainsbourg in 1980 after being fed up with his drinking and temper but their professional relationship outlasted the breakup. Birkin was seen by the media as Gainsbourg’s muse. Five years after his death, Birkin paid tribute to Gainsbourg by releasing a cover album of his songs.

Birkin’s distinctive style during the 1960s and 1970s, featuring bangs, long hair, white tops paired with jeans, knit mini dresses, and basket bags, epitomized French chic for countless women worldwide.

Jane Birkin Legay Hermes Bag

One of Birkin’s lasting legacies is the iconic Hermes bag that carries her name. Created in 1984 in her honor, the Birkin bag remains one of the most exclusive luxury items, with a price tag of $10,000 and a years-long waiting list to purchase. In a lighthearted 2018 interview, Birkin jokingly acknowledged that the bag might be what she is best known for.

The creation of the Birkin bag came about when, during a flight in 1984, her own bag broke, leading her to complain outload that Hermes did not make a bag large enough to accommodate all of her possessions. By chance, the man sitting next to her was Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman and head designer of Hermès. Later that same year, Hermes fulfilled Birkin’s request by releasing the Birkin bag in the large size she desired.

Jane Birkin Political Activism

In France, Birkin was recognized for her political activism and campaigning for the Myanmar pro-democracy movement, the fight against AIDS, and various other causes. In 2008, she joined five monks on a march through the Cannes Film festival, demanding that Myanmar grant entry to foreign aid workers to help cyclone victims. In 2022, she stood in solidarity with other celebrities by cutting off her hair in support of protestors in Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted “Jane Birkin was a French icon because she was the incarnation of freedom, sang the most beautiful words of our language.

Jane Birkin Jane Birkin dies at 76

French media reported that Birkin suddenly passed way in her Paris home. Fans gathered outside her home to pay their respects to the French icon.

In recent years, Birkin had been battling health issues that limited her performances and made public appearances scarce. In 2021, she suffered a stroke, leading to the cancellation of her scheduled shows for that year. Earlier this year, she had to cancel shows once again due to a broken shoulder blade.

Birkin is survived by two daughters, one with Serge Gainsbourg and the other with Jacques Doillon. Her third daughter, Kate Barry, died in 2013 at the age of 46 after falling from a window in her fourth-floor Parisian apartment.

Main image credit: Mariusz Kubik under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International