Jane Birkin died today at home in Paris, aged 76. She had suffered a stroke in 2021 but no cause of death has been released yet.
The London lass was one of the faces and voices of the Swinging Sixties and remains a fashion icon with the Birkin Bag named for her.
But she hit headlines worldwide (and was banned in many countries) with the release of that song.
You know, the one with the organ opening and all that simulated (or was it) groaning and sex noises at the end.
Scroll down to watch Jane Birkin in the original 1969 promo for Je t’aime… moi non plus.
Although 23-year-old Birkin was in a relationship with the song’s creator and singer Serge Gainsbourg, he did not write it for her.
Perhaps not a conventionally handsome man, the musician, actor and director had been having an affair with Brigitte Bardot who demanded he write her a love song after a disastrous date in late 1967. She wanted « the most beautiful love song he could imagine. »
They even recorded the resulting song together across two hours in a studio, where the engineer later described much « heavy petting. »
Bardot, however, was married to businessman Gunter Sachs who demanded it should never be released.
Two years later, Gainsbourg asked his English girlfriend to rerecord the song with him. He had played her the Bardot version which he later confessed she found « so hot. »
Obsessed with the provocative track, Birkin said: « I only sang it because I didn’t want anybody else to sing it. »
Recorded in London, the new version immediately created controversy when it was released.
Not only were the morals of the day offended by the overt sexual content, but also that it implied sex for its own pleasurable sake, without love.
One line, for example, goes: « Je vais et je viens, entre tes reins (I go and I come, between your loins.) »
Birkin said in 2004: « It wasn’t a rude song at all. I don’t know what all the fuss was about. The English just didn’t understand it. I’m still not sure they know what it means. »
Even so, it was actually banned from radio in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Brazil. Even sexually liberated France only allowed it to be played after 11pm.
Naturally, sex and controversy sell and the recording has passed six million sales worldwide.
Birkin has revealed delicious details about the recording: « I got a bit carried away with the heavy breathing – so much so, in fact, that I was told to calm down, which meant that at one point I stopped breathing altogether. If you listen to the record now, you can still hear that little gap. »
But was real sex involved in the recording?
Gainsbourg had the last word when he declared: « Thank goodness it wasn’t, otherwise I hope it would have been a long-playing record. »
The couple remained together until 1980 and had one daughter, Charlotte.