Jane Birkin

Born : 14/12/1946 in London (Great Britain)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Female Artist
Style of music : Chanson

How did Jane Birkin - the shy, awkward-looking young actress who arrived in France in the late 60's - go on to become the most popular English artist on the French music scene? It was, in part, due to her own natural talent and personal charm, of course - but Jane Birkin's long relationship with the renowned French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg also played a major part in catapulting her to overnight fame. Birkin and Gainsbourg formed one of the most legendary French showbiz couples of all time - both in and out of the recording studio! So it seemed entirely natural that Jane should end up devoting almost 30 years of her career to performing Gainsbourg's inimitable material.

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How did Jane Birkin - the shy, awkward-looking young actress who arrived in France in the late 60's - go on to become the most popular English artist on the French music scene? It was, in part, due to her own natural talent and personal charm, of course - but Jane Birkin's long relationship with the renowned French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg also played a major part in catapulting her to overnight fame. Birkin and Gainsbourg formed one of the most legendary French showbiz couples of all time - both in and out of the recording studio! So it seemed entirely natural that Jane should end up devoting almost 30 years of her career to performing Gainsbourg's inimitable material.

Jane Birkin was born in London on 14 December 1946. Her father David, a well-known English aristocrat, was a commander in the Royal Navy at the time of Jane's birth. Her mother, Judy Gamble (better known in The English theatre world by her stage name Judy Campbell) was a renowned actress and a favourite muse of the famous English playwright Noel Coward. Jane thus grew up in an extremely bourgeois, but artistic, environment with her elder brother, Andrew, and her young sister, Linda.

Swinging Jane

Hanging out in London in the swinging 60's as the British arts scene began to flourish overnight, Jane soon decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and launch her own acting career. Jane made her London stage début in a musical called the "Passion Flower Hotel". But she soon left the theatre and became involved in the film world, landing her first role in Richard Lester's film "The Knack" in 1965. But Jane's big break came two years later when the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni cast the shy, awkward-looking teenager in "Blow Up" (the film that went on to win the 'Palme d'or' award at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival). Jane had just married the English musician John Barry (composer of the legendary James Bond theme) and on 8 April 1967 the couple celebrated the birth of their daughter Kate. Unfortunately, Jane and John's relationship was not going too well at the time, and the couple ended up separating shortly after Kate's birth.

1968 proved to be a historic turning point in Jane Birkin's personal life as well as her career. For it was in '68 that the French director Pierre Grimblat began scouting around for a young English actress to star in his film "Slogan". Jane ventured across the Channel to audition for the female lead in "Slogan", never for one moment suspecting that she was leaving England behind for good.

Grimblat had originally intended to cast Marisa Berenson in "Slogan" but, he was so impressed by Jane's audition that he offered her the part. The young English actress (who did not speak a word of French at the time) soon found herself on set starring opposite the famous French singer/songwriter and sometime actor Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg, who had just turned 40, already had a long and distinguished career behind him, not to mention a series of tumultuous love affairs. (Indeed, Gainsbourg had just enjoyed a much-publicised fling with 60's sex symbol Brigitte Bardot). At first, Gainsbourg gave young Jane a hard time on set as well as off. But one night the pair went out to dinner together at Maxim's and ended up getting on so well that they soon began a passionate affair - which rapidly turned into one of the most legendary partnerships in French music history.

Je t'aime, moi aussi...

Gainsbourg, who was renowned for his love of wild partying and nightlife, soon began appearing everywhere with the beautiful young English actress on his arm - often with a trail of photographers hot on their heels. Thus before Jane had even made a name for herself in France as an actress or a singer, she found herself in the media spotlight almost 24 hours a day through her relationship with Gainsbourg.

In 1969 Jane continued her acting career in France appearing in two (rather mediocre) films, "Les Chemins de Katmandou" and "Cannabis". These films hardly made a major impact on the international movie scene, but they did allow Jane to spend as much time as possible in Serge's company (for Gainsbourg also starred in both films). By now the pair's affair had developed into a full-blown relationship, and the couple had become absolutely inseparable. Jane did manage to leave Serge's side for a few months, however, when she travelled down to the Côte d'Azur to begin shooting Jacques Deray's film "La Piscine". (Incidentally, this film starred another legendary showbiz couple, Romy Schneider and Alain Delon - who had separated by the time shooting started).

But the highlight of Birkin and Gainsbourg's collaboration was not their acting career, but their recording partnership - and it was this which would make the pair one of the most legendary showbiz couples of all time. In 1968 Gainsbourg had written "Je t'aime, moi non plus", an explicitly erotic song which he had recorded with Brigitte Bardot. After the pair's relationship had ended, Bardot begged Gainsbourg not to release the recording as a single and Gainsbourg, the perfect gentleman, respected her wishes. However, in 1969 Jane recorded the notorious song as a duet with Gainsbourg and it appeared on the pair's joint album "Jane Birkin Serge Gainsbourg".

When "Je t'aime moi non plus" was released as a single later that year it caused an absolute scandal. Indeed, Gainsbourg's erotic lyrics and Jane's passionate whispering totally outraged public opinion. The international press attacked the song's "lewd" message, radios banned it from their playlists and the Vatican went so far as to issue a statement condemning the immoral nature of the song. In short, "Je t'aime moi non plus" benefited from a huge amount of free publicity and rocketed straight to the top of the charts, selling around a million copies in the space of just a few months. Needless to say, Gainsbourg and Birkin became the most scandalous couple of the year and their relationship became the subject of intense media scrutiny.

The Sound of Wedding Bells?

Jane went on to move into Gainsbourg's Paris residence (in the rue de Verneuil), and the couple soon settled into a somewhat calmer mode of existence. Kate (Jane's daughter from her first marriage) began to spend an increasing amount of time with the couple in Paris. Indeed, Gainsbourg would bring her up as his own daughter.

Meanwhile, the couple continued to devote a huge amount of time and energy to their respective careers. In 1970 Jane landed two minor film roles and spent much of the year rushing on and off film sets. Meanwhile, Gainsbourg was busy working on his new album "l'Histoire de Melody Nelson". At the end of the year Jane joined him in the recording studio to perform backing vocals on a couple of tracks, then Gainsbourg went to London in January 1971 to put the final touches to the album.

Although Jane's vocals played a secondary role on "l'Histoire de Melody Nelson", there was no mistaking the fact that Jane was the primary source of inspiration behind the album. Indeed, a close-up shot of her face appeared on the album cover, proclaiming her new status as Gainsbourg's muse. Gainsbourg's album, which was co-written and arranged by Jean-Claude Vannier (who went on to work on Jane Birkin's albums right up until the 90's) proved to be a huge critical success. Indeed, "l'Histoire de Melody Nelson" was widely held to be the finest album of Gainsbourg's entire career.

Six months later (on 21 July 1971) Jane went into a London clinic to give birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Charlotte. This event fuelled intense media speculation that Birkin and Gainsbourg were finally getting ready to tie the knot. Several newspapers even went so far as to announce that the couple's wedding date was set for 1972, and rumour had it that a giant party was to be held at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. However, the paparazzi were to be severely disappointed for the wedding of the year never actually happened. In fact, Jane decided to call off the event, fearing a public wedding would provoke a huge media circus.

Jane on Film

Jane Birkin took a break from both her recording and her acting career between 1971 and 1972 - in fact, she scarcely worked at all. But in 1973 she returned to the recording studio to begin work on her first solo album (entirely written by Gainsbourg, of course!) "Di Doo Dah", the title track from Jane's first album, proved to be a major chart hit - but the rest of the songs on the album were rather less impressive.

Later that year Jane turned her attention to her acting career once again, appearing in Roger Vadim's film "Don Juan 73". Her co-star was none other than Brigitte Bardot (making her penultimate appearance on the silver screen). Jane went on to become an extremely popular actress with French film directors who found her English accent and her general quirkiness enchanting. But unfortunately these attributes would also lead to Jane being typecast as a bit of a 'bimbo' and ending up in a series of 'cute but stupid' roles (such as in Claude Zidi's 1974 comic film "la Moutarde me monte au nez" and Michel Audiard's "Comment réussir dans la vie quand on est con et pleurnichard"). However, Michel Deville eventually stepped in and saved the day, offering Jane a more demanding role in "le Mouton enragé".

1975 proved to be an even busier year as far as Jane's acting career was concerned - indeed, the young English actress made five films in twelve months! Besides starring in two more comedies (including Claude Zidi's box-office hit "la Course à l'échalote"), Jane also appeared in Jacques Rouffio's highly dramatic film "Sept morts sur ordonnance".

But the highlight of Jane's career in 1975 was undoubtedly her appearance in Gainsbourg's first film "Je t'aime moi non plus" (which began shooting in le Gard, a region in the South of France in September). Gainsbourg's daring directorial début revolved around the relationship between a homosexual lorry driver - Joe Dalessandro - and an androgynous-looking teenage girl - Jane Birkin complete with cropped wig! The film's controversial sex scenes and its frank examination of sexual ambiguity caused a veritable scandal when "Je t'aime moi non plus" hit French cinema screens in March 1976. Gainsbourg was pilloried in the press and Jane's performance in the film was also attacked. In short, the couple managed to stir up as much fuss as they had with their "erotic" single of the same name!

However, Gainsbourg was not without his supporters. Several prominent film critics stepped in to defend the film, among them the legendary French director François Truffaut. The film critic Henri Chapier, writing in the "Quotidien de Paris", was also impressed by Birkin's performance : "This film blows through Jane Birkin's tranquil career with the force of a whirlwind (...)." But a handful of favourable reviews was not enough to save Gainsbourg's directorial début from public censure. "Je t'aime moi non plus" attracted just 150,000 cinema-goers on its release - but it has since gone on to become a cult film on the arthouse circuit!

Jane on Record

Jane did not neglect her recording career during this period either, releasing a new album, "Lolita Go Home" (written by Philippe Labro, Jean-Pierre Sabard and, of course, the inimitable Gainsbourg). But, ironically, the song which sent Jane rocketing back to the top of the French charts was "La Ballade de Johnny Jane" (taken from the soundtrack of "Je t'aime moi non plus"!).

In 1977 Jane tried her hand at songwriting, penning the lyrics to "Yesterday yes a day" (which was used in the soundtrack to the French film "Madame Claude"). The following year the multi-talented singer returned to the recording studio to begin work on a new album entitled "Ex-fan des sixties". The album proved to be a huge commercial and critical success - indeed, many critics considered the title track to be one of the finest songs Gainsbourg had ever written for his partner. The album also featured another famous Gainsbourg classic - "l'Aquoiboniste". This surreal song, full of the most bizarre, complicated wordplay certainly proved that Gainsbourg was one of the most talented songwriters of his generation. And Jane was undoubtedly the ideal person to perform her partner's strange literary texts.

After the success of "Ex-fan des sixties" Jane turned her attention to her acting career once again, appearing in a series of more mainstream films (such as Claude Zidi's 1977 film "l'Animal" in which she co-starred with the famous French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and John Guillermin's "Death on The Nile", in which she played opposite Peter Ustinov, in 1978).

A Major Change of Direction

Towards the end of the 70's, however, Jane disappeared from the recording studio and French cinema screens. She also suffered a major upheaval in her personal life, as Gainsbourg plunged into several major bouts of alcoholism and depression. Gainsbourg's excessive behaviour (heavy drinking, all-night partying and new scandals in the media) began to take its toll and finally, in 1980, Jane moved out of the house in rue de Verneuil and booked into a suite at the Hilton where she lived for the next two months with her daughters.

Then, after a brief period of moving from one rented flat to another, Jane bought herself a house in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. This comfortable house, surrounded by a tiny garden, would become Jane's place of refuge for the next 15 years. Jane ended up separating from Gainsbourg, but the couple remained on good terms, seeing each other frequently and sharing custody of their daughter, Charlotte.

In 1980, shortly after her break-up with Gainsbourg, Jane began a passionate love affair with the French film-maker Jacques Doillon. Like Gainsbourg, Doillon would play a major role in Jane's career, offering her a series of roles in his own films and advising her on her film career. The couple met on the set of Doillon's film "la Fille prodigue" which marked an important turning-point in Jane's career. For not only did Jane get to play a major lead role (opposite the famous French actor Michel Piccoli), she also got the chance to play a tragic heroine. Her performance in Doillon's film could not have been further removed from the naïve, bimbo roles the actress had played in the early 70's and Jane gave her all, revealing an unexpected depth to her acting.

Birkin and Doillon's affair soon developed into a major relationship and shortly after they set up home together, Jane gave birth to a daughter, Lou, in September 1982. Jane continued to devote an enormous amount of time and energy to her acting career, making at least one film a year. Following her success in "la Fille prodigue", Jane began to take on a series of much more demanding dramatic roles (starring in Doillon's "la Pirate" and Jacques Rivette's "l'Amour par terre" in 1984, then going on to appear in Régis Warnier's film "la Femme de ma vie" in 1986). But the popular English actress also continued to appear in the French comedies which had launched her career (starring in Patrice Leconte's film "Circulez y'a rien à voir" in 1983 and "le Garde du corps" in 1984).

Birkin and Gainsbourg - The Reunion

1983 marked another important highlight in Jane Birkin's recording career, for this was the year in which she renewed her professional partnership with Gainsbourg. The couple had continued to see one another since their separation and remained extremely good friends and in 1983 Gainsbourg penned a new album for Birkin (which, incidentally, many critics considered to be the finest she ever recorded). Ironically, Gainsbourg had reached the depths of his self-destructive period at this point, humiliating himself while drunk on national television and causing a new series of scandals. And, yet in spite of these new media fiascos, Gainsbourg managed to write an album which was full of tenderness, nostalgia and finesse. (Through the bravura of Gainsbourg's sophisticated wordplay, discerning critics got a glimpse of a man who had never recovered from the break-up of his relationship with Jane).

The album "Baby alone in Babylone" featured a bevy of Gainsbourg classics such as "Baby Lou", "Fuir le bonheur de peur qu'il ne se sauve" (Flee Happiness Before It Escapes) and "les Dessous chics" - Jane's personal favourite on the album. (Gainsbourg also shot a special short film to coincide with the release of the album). Needless to say, Jane's new album proved a huge hit with music fans who were overjoyed at Birkin's professional reunion with Gainsbourg. Thousands of fans rushed out to buy a copy of "Baby alone in Babylone" and Jane's new album rocketed to the top of the charts, going gold within a few months of its release. The album also proved to be a major hit with the critics and in 1984 the title track, "Baby alone in Babylone", won the prestigious Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles-Cros.

In 1985 Jane branched out in a new direction, making her first serious foray into theatre. Encouraged by the renowned French director Patrice Chéreau, Jane appeared at the Théâtre des Amandiers (in the Paris suburbs). Starring opposite Michel Piccoli (the actor with whom she had appeared in the film "la Fille prodigue"), Jane gave a superb performance in Marivaux's classical play "la Fausse suivante". Her theatre début went down extremely well with the public and won the English actress rave reviews from French theatre critics.

Later that same year Jane's daughter, Charlotte, decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and launch her own acting career. Charlotte made her screen début in Claude Miller's film "L'Effrontée" and gained instant acclaim for her sensitive portrayal of a disturbed teenager. Charlotte's performance proved a huge hit with the critics and in March 1986, a nervous-looking Charlotte stepped up on stage at the "Césars Awards" (French theatre's equivalent of the Oscars) to receive her award for Best Female Newcomer of the Year. Serge and Jane, who both attended the award ceremony, were visibly moved by their daughter's success.

In 1985 Charlotte Gainsbourg also prolonged the family tradition of media scandals, when she played the starring role in Gainsbourg's new film "Charlotte forever". The film, which revolved around a vaguely incestuous relationship between a father and daughter (both Serge and Charlotte played themselves in the film) did not fail to provoke public outrage. The single "Lemon Incest" (which Gainsbourg performed as a duet with Charlotte) also caused a veritable furore when it was released later that year.

Jane In Concert

In 1987 Jane went into a London studio to record "Lost Song", a new 9-track album which Gainsbourg had written specially for her. On this particular album (as on the album "Charlotte Forever" which he wrote for his daughter in 1986) Gainsbourg drew inspiration from classical music. After having experimented with reworkings of Chopin for Charlotte, Gainsbourg was influenced by Grieg's opera "Peer Gynt" when he wrote the title track of Jane's new album "Lost Song".

Following the release of the album "Lost Song", Jane appeared in concert in Paris at Le Bataclan (March 1987). Jane's performance at Le Bataclan was a truly exceptional moment in her career - for, in spite of the fact that she had been singing for almost twenty years by this stage, this was Jane Birkin's very first live concert!

Choosing to appear against an extremely minimalist décor, Jane gave a very moving performance, devoting most of her concert to Gainsbourg's material. When Jane did deviate from her Gainsbourg repertoire, it was to include the work of another legendary French songwriter, Léo Ferré (author of the classic "Avec le temps"). In spite of Jane's relative inexperience on stage, the series of concerts at Le Bataclan proved to be a huge success and in April 1987 Jane was invited to perform at the prestigious Printemps de Bourges festival. Needless to say, Jane brought the house down at Bourges and Gainsbourg captured her entire performance on film.

Jane continued to devote precious time and energy to her film career in 1987, branching out in a new direction with experimental film director Agnès Varda. Varda made two films with Birkin - an intimate documentary entitled "Jane B. par Agnès V" (Jane B. by Agnès V.) and "Kung-Fu Master", a film which evoked a love story between a 40-year-old woman (Jane) and a teenage boy (played by Mathieu Demy, Varda's own son). Varda wove countless autobiographical elements into "Kung-Fu Master", filming several scenes in Jane's own home. (Jane's parents as well as her daughters, Charlotte and Lou, also appeared in the film, playing themselves).

Later that same year Jane also played a minor role in Jean-Luc Godard's film "Soigne ta droite".

In February 1990 Jane returned to the recording studio to begin work on a new album of Gainsbourg tracks. In spite of the couple's separation, Gainsbourg had never really relinquished Jane as his muse. Indeed, Gainsbourg appeared to be increasingly inspired by her on his later albums. "Amours des feintes", the title track of Jane's new album (released in September of that year) expressed Gainsbourg's continuing attachment for his former lover. He even drew a charming ink portrait of Jane for the album cover.

A Period of Mourning

Jane also returned to the stage in 1990, starring opposite the French actor Pierre Dux in Israel Horowitz's play "Quelque part dans cette vie". Once again, Jane's performance was well received by both audience and critics. Later that year Jane also went on to land the leading role in the film "Daddy Nostalgie" (in which she starred alongside the famous British actor Dirk Bogarde).

1991 proved to be a tragic year for Jane. She was devastated by news of Gainsbourg's death on 2 March 1991, and while she was still reeling from the shock of this loss, her father died a few days later. Jane was deeply affected by the loss of these two important men in her life, but she decided to go ahead with the series of concerts which had been planned for June of that year. Overcoming her grief, Jane appeared at the Casino de Paris, where hundreds of fans turned out to support her. Jane gave a highly moving performance, turning her concerts into a personal tribute to her former lover and songwriting partner Gainsbourg.

Jane Takes to the Streets

Jane remained deeply committed to humanitarian causes and the singer/actress was frequently to be seen marching through the streets of Paris, brandishing anti-racist placards and defending illegal immigrants. In 1991 Jane also discovered what it was like to be on the other side of the camera when she made a short documentary film for Amnesty International about a young Filipino woman. (This film was shown in conjunction with the work of 30 other French film-makers in an attempt to alert public opinion to the plight of political prisoners worldwide).

Jane enjoyed her experience behind the camera so much that the following year she went on to write and direct a full-length feature film for French television. Her film "Oh Pardon tu dormais!" (Sorry I Didn't Realise You Were Sleeping), starring Jacques Perrin and Christine Boisson, traced the breakdown of a relationship as a distraught couple discussed their problems late into the night.

Jane did not neglect her singing career while she was making her film and in the summer of '92 the multi-talented Ms. Birkin embarked upon a national tour, appearing at a number of major French music festivals (including the famous "Francofolies de la Rochelle" in July). Following this tour, Jane began to disappear from the media spotlight, preferring to take a break from her hectic career and enjoy her private life. As Jane began to disappear from the public sphere, her daughter Charlotte's career started to take off in a major way and young Ms. Gainsbourg soon went on to become one of the most successful actresses of her generation. Meanwhile, Jane's elder daughter, Kate Barry, launched a career in fashion and spent her free time working in rehab centres with former drug addicts.

Jane also remained extremely busy with her own charity work and in 1994 she took up the fight against Aids, getting involved with the "3,000 scénarios contre un virus" project. This project was very similar to the Amnesty International venture Jane had been involved with three years earlier. A group of well-known film directors were invited to make a short awareness-raising film about Aids. Jane eagerly volunteered to get back behind the camera on this occasion.

Then in the spring of '94, Jane set off for Bosnia with the French humanitarian association 'Paris-Sarajevo-Europe'. The association provided much-needed moral and cultural support in Bosnia, distributing books, records and computer software and Jane was directly involved in transporting the material to the war-torn city.

Jane Birkin - The Comeback

In September 1994 Jane returned to London to give a memorable performance at the Savoy. She gave a special one-off concert, devoting the entire evening to the extensive repertoire Gainsbourg had written for her over the years. The English audience at the Savoy gave Jane an enthusiastic reception, welcoming the "petite anglaise" home in style. Jane returned to London in the spring of '95 to play one of the lead roles in "Trojan Women", Euripides' famous Greek tragedy which was staged at the National Theatre.

Jane still found time to pursue her film career as well and later that year she appeared in three new films. (However, she only played a lead role in one of these - Jean-Pierre Mocky's "Noir comme le souvenir").

But the highlight of Jane's career in 1995 was undoubtedly the release of "Version Jane" - a new album which was, needless to say, entirely made up of old Gainsbourg classics. However, Jane did not simply record a straightforward copy of her former partner's songs, she invited a host of modern French musicians into the studio to help her re-arrange Gainsbourg's classics. Each musician worked on a different song and the resulting album included a fascinating mix of styles, featuring contributions from the Senegalese percussionist Dudu N'Diaye Rose, composer Goran Bregovic and DJ Boom Bass as well as Jane's old songwriting friend Jean-Claude Vannier. One of the most outstanding tracks on Jane's new album was Les Négresses Vertes' vibrant new version of "la Gadoue" (a song Gainsbourg had written thirty years earlier for another famous English singer, Petula Clark).

Encouraged by the success of this new album, Jane turned her attention to performing live once again. She appeared at the Olympia (the most famous venue in Paris) between 1 and 13 October, then embarked upon a major national tour, playing 52 dates up and down the country. Jane's memorable concerts at the Olympia were captured on a 26-track live album (released in January '97).

Jane Turns The Page On The Gainsbourg Years

In 1998 Jane Birkin finally turned the page on the Gainsbourg years - her latest album, "A la légère" (released on 14 September), is the first album of her career which does not feature a single track by Gainsbourg. Jane has resolutely turned her face to the future, enlisting the songwriting talent of a host of modern French artists to replace her legendary songwriting partner of old. Jane's new album features eclectic contributions from a diverse range of artists including Alain Chamfort, Miossec, Alain Souchon & Laurent Voulzy, Gérard Manset, Etienne Daho, 60's pop star Françoise Hardy and rising young singer/songwriter Zazie. Appropriately enough, "Love Slow Motion", the first single release from Jane's new album, was written by French rap king MC Solaar - whose sophisticated literary wordplay has often been compared to that of the late great Gainsbourg!

The following year, Jane Birkin went back onto the theatre stage where she acted in her own play "Oh! Pardon tu dormais" along with Thierry Fortineau. In 2000, she was invited by the Montreux Jazz Festival to put together a tribute to Serge Gainsbourg. Aided by Philippe Lerichomme, the project climaxed when she walked onto the stage of the Auditorium Stravinsky in Montreux. She was surrounded with the likes of Jacques Higelin, Alain Chamfort, Arielle, M, Ute Lemper, Miossec and Salif Keita. Every one of them performed at least one song by the chanson enfant terrible.

The volatile star also performed in a few films ("Ceci est mon corps", "Reine d'un jour"), but more than ever she was active on the humanitarian front. At the end of 2000, she presented a Telethon, the proceeds of which are donated each year to genetic research. A few days later, she took part in a gala evening celebrating the 20th anniversary of the abolition of death penalty in France. For the occasion she performed a few Gainsbourg’s songs accompanied by a band of Kabyle musicians. This performance announced a series of concerts, "Arabesque",that opened in March 2002 at the Odeon in Paris presenting Gainsbourg’s repertoire re-arranged with Kabyle orchestrations.

After a long Parisian stopover at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées from February 25thto March 1st, Jane travelled to Germany, Great Britain and even Russian and Ukraine.


Jane Birkin has maintained her political commitments throughout her career. The singer has been vociferous in her support of Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the National League of Democracy (imprisoned for her defiance of the military regime in Burma). Jane invites visitors to her website to sign a petition demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow activists. And she has also proved her commitment by her actions, joining demonstrators from the International Federation of Human Rights in a protest outside the Burmese Embassy in Paris in June 2003. 

Jane Birkin also caused something of a stir on her Arabesque tour, stopping off in both Israel and Palestine in December 2003, playing concerts in Tel-Aviv, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza. In Gaza she performed a special show for children in the Jabaliya refugee camp. She then went on to appear at the Cultural Centre in Shawa. 

Despite her hectic tour schedule, Jane still managed to make time for her acting work. She hit cinema screens twice in 2003, appearing in Catherine Corsini's film "Mariées mais pas trop" and Anton Litvak's "Merci Dr Rey." 

Following the success of Arabesque (which rapidly gained gold disc status), Jane continued her live tour, performing dates across Asia at the start of 2004. Audiences flocked to see her in Vietnam, Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia and Thailand. Jane finally brought her 250-date international tour to an end in the spring of 2004, bringing the house down at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 2 March 2004.

2004: "Rendez-vous"

On 30 March 2004, Jane released a new album entitled "Rendez-vous."The album features a series of duets, which bring together international stars old and new. The duets, organised by Gonzales and Renaud Letang, include performances with Françoise Hardy, Alain Chamfort, Alain Souchon, Caetano Veloso, Brian Ferry, Etienne Daho, Paolo Conte, Manu Chao, Mickey 3D, Miossec, Beth Gibbons, Brian Molko, Feist and Japanese star Yosui Inoue. 

On 9 September 2004, Jane was awarded a prestigious French honour, the "Ordre national du Mérite." 

In November 2004, the singer headed back to the United States as part of her "Arabesque" tour, taking her new show to New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles.

Making a much-heralded return to the stage in her homeland, Jane Birkin appeared at the Royal Theatre in Northampton, England (17 March - 3 April 2005), playing the role of Gertrude in the Shakespeare classic "Hamlet." She also put in another performance in front of the cameras, acting in Daniel Vigne’s film "Les Aventuriers des mers du sud." But in the autumn of 2005, Jane turned her attention back to her music career once again, locking herself away to begin work on a new solo album.

2006: "Fictions"

Jane, who had spent so many years of her career performing and reworking songs by her legendary Pygmalion, Gainsbourg, branched out in a new direction on her album, "Fictions" (released in March 2006). For the first time in her career, she went back to singing almost exclusively in English and explored new musical territory thanks to collaborations with artists from the new music scene on both sides of the Channel. Anglo guest songwriters included Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), who contributed a poignant ballad about childhood entitled "Home", Beth Gibbons (ex-Portishead) who penned a song called "My Secret" and the Canadian Gonzales (who also arranged the album) .wrote "Living in Limbo."

Other highlights on "Fictions" included cover versions of "Alice" (Tom Waits) and "Mother Stands for Comfort" (Kate Bush). French songwriters also starred on Jane’s new album, Dominique A contributing the superb "Ou est la ville?", Cali giving Jane "Sans toi" and Arthur H penning the remarkable "La reine sans royaume." These musical vignettes, tinged with a certain melancholy and nostalgia, made "Fictions" one of Jane’s most intimate and personal albums to date.

The singer returned to the theatre at the end of 2006, treading the boards again as an actress. Between November 2006 and March 2007, Jane Birkin gave a series of acclaimed performances as the heroine in Sophocles' Greek tragedy "Electra." The play premièred at the Théâtre des Amandiers, in the Paris suburbs, then toured fifteen other towns and cities across France. After this experience, Jane fulfilled another of her long-held dreams, stepping behind the camera to direct her first full-length feature film, "Boxes." She also acted in the film, starring alongside Michel Piccoli, Géraldine Chaplin, Natacha Régnier and one of her own daughters, Lou Doillon.

In 2008, Jane embarked upon an extensive international tour of "Arabesque", performing concerts in Japan, Lebanon, Norway, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Turkey. In the summer of 2008, Jane turned her attention to her acting career once again, starring in Jacques Rivette's film "36 vues du Pic Saint Loup."

2008: "Enfants d'hiver"

Despite her hectic and extremely eclectic schedule, Jane somehow found time to start work on a new album, "Enfants d'hiver." The album, released on 17 November 2008, found the singer delving into her childhood memories and featured a cover shot of 12-year-old Jane standing on a cliff. This was the first album in Jane's career where she penned all her song lyrics herself. Writing almost exclusively in French, the singer used a lot of personal material for inspiration, drawing on old diaries and even script notes she had made during the filming of "Boxes." The songs on this highly intimate new album ranged from nostalgic ballads to angry outbursts and hard-hitting songs with a political conscience. The sole English track on the album was dedicated to the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gainsbourg's former muse recruited a host of French music stars to help in the making of "Enfants d'hiver." The album was produced by Edith Fambuena and set to music by Alain and Pierre Souchon, Hawksley Workman, Alain Lanty, Pierre-Michel Sivadier, Bertrand Louis and Franck Eulry. In 2009, Jane is set to hit the road again for a French tour, performing the bitter-sweet songs from her new album to audiences across the country.

December 2008

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