Jane Birkin Wiki – Jane Birkin Biography

British singer and actress Jane Birkin has died at her home in Paris following a long battle against cancer. The 76-year-old star of cult films including Blow-Up was ‘found dead by a caregiver’ in the French capital this morning, said a family friend. Ms Birkin’s health hit headlines back in 2002, when she was diagnosed with Leukaemia, which she had described as a ‘not very painful cancer’ – but in May she cancelled a serious of concerts when it got worse.

She said at the time: ‘I have always been a great optimist, and I realise that I still need a little time to be able again on stage and with you’. A few years back, following many torrid, youthful years of excess, Ms Birkin detailed her relationship with alcohol – and how her cancer changed that.

The London-born singer also suffered a stroke in 2021 and was forced to cancel several concerts that year. She cancelled shows again last March after breaking her shoulder blade. She is one of Britain’s best-known Sixities sensations, known for her romantic affairs, striking looks and fashion sense. She is perhaps best known for the French duet Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus, which she sung with her ex Serge Gainsbourg in 1968.


Ms Birkin was an icon in her adopted France and catapulted to fame by her turbulent relationship with Mr Gainsbourg and her heavily accented French, which became her personal style signifier. She crossed the Channel in 1968, at the age of 22, to star in a film alongside Mr Gainsbourg, who was 18 years her senior. It was the start of a 13-year relationship that made them France’s most famous couple, in the spotlight as much for their bohemian and hedonistic lifestyle as for their work.

The doe-eyed Ms Birkin, with her soft voice and androgynous silhouette, quickly became a sex symbol, recording a steamy duo with a growling Mr Gainsbourg in 1969, ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’. Banned on radio in several countries for being too risqué and condemned by the Vatican, the song was a worldwide hit, reaching Number One in the UK Charts. The couple, who never wed, became well known for their hedonistic party lifestyle, including much drinking and smoking. They separated in 1980, with Ms Birkin continuing to appear in films, and she recorded solo albums.

‘He and I became the most famous of couples in that strange way because of Je t’aime and because we stuck together for 13 years and he went on being my friend until the day he died. Who could ask for more?’ Ms Birkin told CNN in 2006. ‘So Paris became my home. I’ve been adopted here. They like my accent,’ she said. With her flared jeans, mini dresses and messy bangs, Ms Birkin was the ultimate It girl in the 1970s. In 1984, Hermés named its Birkin handbag after her. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2001 for her services to acting and British-French cultural relations. Ms Birkin was born in London on December 14, 1946 to a naval officer and actress.


Jane Birkin net worth

Jane Birkin is an English actress and singer who has a net worth of $20 million. She began appearing in films during the 1960s.

Jane Birkin’s family

At age 18 she married James Bond composer John Barry, with whom she had a daughter, Kate, but the marriage lasted only three years. Her film debut in 1966 made waves with her full frontal nude scene in the swinging sixties classic Blow Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. After meeting Mr Gainsbourg in Paris on the set of a romantic comedy – he was her co-star – she moved to France permanently. Their musical and romantic relationship was tempestuous. During one of their raging rows, Birkin tossed herself into the River Seine after throwing a custard pie in Gainsbourg’s face.

They had a daughter, Charlotte, who herself became a hugely successful actress and singer. Besides Charlotte and Kate Ms Birkin had another daughter, singer Lou Doillon, from her 13-year relationship with French director Jacques Doillon Ms Birkin finally walked out on France’s favourite bad boy in 1980 and went onto to blaze her own trail. In cinema she branched out from more ditsy roles to arthouse productions, gaining three nominations at the Cesars – France’s Oscars – starting with La Pirate in 1985.


Jane Birkin career

In her around 70 films she has been directed by such of France’s leading directors, including Bertrand Tavernier, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, James Ivory and Agnes Varda. Ms Birkin remained forever associated with Mr Gainsbourg, who continued to write songs for her after their split, including Les dessous chic about lingerie being used to try cover up a relationship on the rocks. ‘It’s the most beautiful song about separation you could ever have,’ Ms Birkin said in a 2018 interview.

A chronic alcoholic, Mr Gainsbourg died of a heart attack in 1991 aged 62. A few years earlier he was in the audience to hear Ms Birkin perform her first solo concert at the age of 40 at the Bataclan theatre in Paris. In 2017 she released Le Symphonique – an album that featured a series of songs that Mr Gainsbourg had written for her during and after their relationship In 1998 came her first record without Gainsbourg, A la Legere. But she repeatedly returned to his repertoire, singing his hits accompanied by a full orchestra around the world, including in 2020 in New York where she performed with Iggy Pop.

The English rose of French chanson became something of a national treasure, who preserved the accent that made the French swoon throughout her life and an endearing air of fragility. Her life was marked by tragedy, with her eldest daughter Kate Barry, a photographer, apparently committing suicide in 2013 at age 46 following a long history of depression and addiction. In an interview a year ago, Ms Birkin said: ‘I live in a panic that things will happen to friends – all around me people are falling like ninepins.


‘I just feel very lucky to be able to walk down the street and do my own shopping and be independent.’ In a chat with Interview Magazine in 2020, Ms Birkin also detailed her relationship with alcohol. She said: ‘I had to [give up alcohol]. When Jacques Doillon and I separated, I went off to Sarajevo and I met [the French writer] Olivier Rolin, and then after that I got quite serious with singing… ‘I made myself have a sort of Jewish-Christian morality thing, thinking if I had any pleasure at all, then the show wouldn’t work. I didn’t drink or smoke a cigarette for about a week before I did the show, then it would be a month before the show….

‘I had no noble reasons at all; it was only out of fear of the above. When I got leukemia, then of course everything stopped. It hasn’t been hard at all because the very idea of being sick, the very idea of it going to your head, makes me panic… ‘I simply hate [drinking]. I mean, I’m frightened by it. So, to even imagine my youth, I don’t know. It was another time.’ The singer also revealed at the time that she had been so insecure about her looks during her first marriage she slept with an eyeliner under her pillow so she could apply it if Mr Barry woke and he wouldn’t think she had ‘tiny, piggy eyes’.

Ms Birkin said she never believed that she was attractive and hid behind ‘a mask of make up’ for years. She claimed it wasn’t until her second marriage to Mr Gainsbourg that anyone told her she was beautiful. The singer admitted she didn’t ‘look like myself’ until he stripped her of make-up while directing her in the film for his song ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ when she was 28. Writing in Elle magazine, Ms Birkin shared that as a teenager she always felt ‘dowdy’ next to her glamorous mother and older sister until she started buying make-up from Woolworths on London’s King’s Road.


She said: ‘I’d pile on the amount of mascara and eyeshadow – I knew my father was going to scream at me and tell me I looked like Cleopatra or a tart. ‘By the time I got married to composer John Barry at age 18 I was just a painted face, hiding behind a mask of make-up. I suppose I fitted into the 1960s ‘English pretty’ look at the time. ‘I wasn’t as beautiful as Jean Shrimpton, who was my icon, but the fashion of the time helped, with very short miniskirts and blonde haircuts with a fringe.

‘Throughout my marriage to John, I used to sleep with an eye pencil under my pillow. If he woke up in the night, I could put it on, so he wouldn’t think I had tiny, piggy eyes. There was such insecurity, it was quite crazy – I spent most of my time trying to look like a fashion tableau… ‘It was only when I left John and want to France, where I met Serge Gainsbourg at an audition for the film Slogan, that I finally felt secure in my looks and realised that I had my own kind of attractiveness.

‘Very soon after we met, Serge told me I was his idea of beauty, which felt so amazing after my marriage to John, during which I’d often felt unwanted and undesired. No one had ever said that it was actually more attractive to have no chest at all. People might have said that it didn’t matter that much, or it wasn’t important at all, or we’d get by without it. ‘But no one had said they’d always imagined they’d be with a girl who looked half like a boy – someone with no chest and big hips, like I had.


‘I remember early on, Serge took me to the Louvre to look at paintings by medieval artists to show me what he meant. He said he’d always been drawn to girls like me when he’d been at art school.’ Throughout her career, Birkin has also been involved in various humanitarian causes, including working with Amnesty International and Unicef. In 2022, Birkin and her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg made headlines taking part in a protest video featuring stars such as Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche which saw them cutting off locks of their hair in support of protesters in Iran.

The Instagram video hash-tagged HairForFreedom, came as Iran was engulfed by anti-government protests following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. President Emmanuel Macron said she ’embodied freedom’ as he led tributes following her death. He tweeted: ‘Because she embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon. ‘A complete artist, her voice was as sweet as her engagements were fiery. She bequeaths us tunes and images that will never leave us.’

Rima Abdul Malak, France’s Minister of Culture, also paid tribute, tweeting ‘the most French of Britons is gone’. She continued: ‘Jane B was mischief, impertinent elegance, the never-outdated emblem of an entire era, a murmuring voice that remains our idol. ‘A woman of heart, committed, whose disappearance leaves us Alone In Babylone,’ referencing one of Birkin’s songs. Similarly, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and the British ambassador to France Menna Rawlings described Birkin respectively as ‘the most Parisian of the English’ and ‘the most French of British artists’.


I am sitting in a bustling Paris bistro waiting for one of the world’s greatest style icons to arrive. The scene is charming and very French but it’s loud and there’s barely enough room to swing a cat. Trying to perch on a tiny stool after cramming my wheelie suitcase awkwardly under the table, I’m wondering how on earth I’m going to hear a word the legendary Jane Birkin – actress, singer, model and epitome of 1960s chic and glamour – is going to say.

When Jane, 75, arrives sans make-up, hair wild and free, wearing a long khaki puffer coat with her bulldog Bella in tow, you almost feel the room stop. As we squish in next to one another, half the customers, along with a few starstruck waiters, appear to be not-so-subtly ear-wigging our conversation. Jane lives in a flat nearby and, even though she often pops into the bistro to people watch and answer emails (she tells me she’s already been here the day we meet for coffee with her daughter, the actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg), her presence captivates those around her.

Jane orders a warm apple tart, and at first is surprisingly shy. She’s reluctant to make eye contact and speaks quietly. I fear this is going to be an absolute disaster. But things soon improve and Jane – all her plummy English vowels still intact despite the half-century living in France – explains her initial timidity springs from suffering a minor stroke last September. I’m still maybe a bit vague. I can’t remember too many things. I am slowly getting back to being normal. It was, however, nice being on a pause for a bit.’


What has never been paused is her sense of style. While these days she prefers to dress in more comfortable clothes such as the black cords, simple knit and Converse she’s wearing today, she still manages to achieve the same effortless look Parisians are famous for. She is also still blessed with that beautiful, wild-child face – the one that lit up 60s counterculture movies such as Blow Up and Kaleidoscope. ‘I don’t bother with make-up any more,’ she says. ‘When you get older, things added on to your face can make you look quite hard and you end up looking like Joan Crawford.’

Did she ever consider a little surgical help? ‘I never dared – it was a question of courage. There are no guarantees that something would not get messed up. But I admire those who do. I think how great that they still feel attractive. It must be wonderful waking up in the morning and feeling like you are still in the game. I’ve gone past that stage. If I was ever going to do it, it would have been ten years ago. There’s no point sticking something in your face at 70. I certainly have nothing against Photoshop, though!’

These days, Jane says she feels like ‘a survivor’, coming to realise that above fashion or style, health is wealth. ‘As you age, if you are healthy, then you shouldn’t moan too much when people much younger have died tragically or are ill with things like leukaemia. I had that [in 2002] and was lucky to survive it.


It was back in 1984 that Jane’s place in the pantheon of fashion icons was cemented by the creation of the famous Hermès Birkin bag. It’s an iconic item that many fashion connoisseurs – myself included – might consider selling a relation for. Its genesis, however, was a happy accident. Hermès’s chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas just happened to be seated next to Jane on a flight from Paris to London. When she attempted to place her straw travelling bag in the overhead compartment, everything fell out, cascading all over the pair of them. Jane apologised and explained to Dumas it had been impossible to find a leather weekend bag that she liked. Inspiration struck. They then spent most of the flight talking about what their ideal bag would look like, with Dumas scribbling designs on the back of a plane sick bag. From such inauspicious starts, the Birkin was born.

I half wondered if she might show up to our interview carrying one slung over her shoulder – but Jane tells me she has given away all but one of her Birkins to raise money for charitable causes close to her heart. These days she carries most of her belongings in the large, deep pockets of the men’s corduroy trousers she often wears and of which she is a big fan. (To emphasise the deepness of said pockets, she dramatically pulls her keys – attached to her trousers with a long Hermès string – from one and thrusts them in my direction.) Asked whether she is proud of her association with the iconic bags, she says: ‘It is fun to have something named after you. When I’m in New York performing, people often ask whether I am ‘Birkin the bag’ and I say: ‘Yes, and the bag is going to sing now!’ My daughter Lou jokes that she is ‘the daughter of the bag.’

Sadly for Jane, all her considerable fame and fortune has come hand in hand with devastating heartbreak. Eight years ago she lost her daughter, photographer Kate Barry, after she fell from the balcony of her Parisian apartment in a suspected suicide. Kate, just 46 when she died, was the eldest of Jane’s three children. Her father was the British composer John Barry, Jane’s first and only husband, best known for his scores for the likes of the James Bond films and Out of Africa. When he and Jane separated shortly after Kate was born, Jane moved to France with Kate, and later had Charlotte with the French singer Serge Gainsbourg, then Lou with the film director Jacques Doillon.


Jane Birkin cause of death

So what does Jane, who found fame in a very different era, think of the world today? Does she consider herself a feminist? ‘I’d like to think I stood up when it counted. But things are happening now without us, it’s quite exciting. My granddaughter Alice [Charlotte’s daughter] lives in New York and is very shocked by how life was in my day, when it was assumed that young girls were somehow responsible for the reactions of older men. Thankfully that’s something that has changed – and to change an accepted point of view is quite something. A young girl’s story is now just as important as anyone else’s and Lou’s son is being brought up far more thoughtfully than boys ever were before.’

As our time together comes to an end we finish by discussing Jane’s fast approaching homecoming. Soon she will return to London to perform songs from her album Oh! Pardon tu Dormais… at London’s Barbican. Jane admits London is the only city that she gets nervous performing in, saying, ‘It’s a mixture of things. It matters the most and it’s the fear of being judged on one’s own ground.’ I tell her she has nothing to worry about. A woman who has led the life she has – and who can give candid interviews at 75 in tiny crowded bistros with her barking bulldog in tow – can cope with anything. Read More……

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