Jane Birkin, singer and actress, dead at 76

 July 17, 2023

British singer and actress Jane Birkin, who lived in France since the 1960s, was found dead at home in Paris at age 76 on Sunday after having had health issues in recent years.

French Culture Ministry said the country had lost a “timeless Francophone icon" in an announcement of her death.

Birkin had a much-publicized musical and romantic relationship with French singer Serge Gainsbourg. They were only married until 1981, but continued to collaborate musically afterward.

The two became famous for singing the sexually explicit “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus” (“I Love You… Me Neither”), which was banned by the BBC and the Vatican.

Iconic star

Birkin was beloved in France as an advocate for women’s and LBGT rights, as well as her warm nature.

The “most Parisian of the English has left us,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said. “We will never forget her songs, her laughs and her incomparable accent which always accompanied us.”

In addition to her music career and acting, Birkin created the "French chic" style of long hair with bangs, jeans paired with white tops, knit mini dresses and basket bags that many women still emulate around the world.

Hermes named a bag after her in 1984 that commanded extremely high prices and, even so, was difficult to get--one recently sold for $300,000 at auction. Birkin reportedly came up with the bag's design on a flight to London with Jean-Louis Dumas, who was the head of Hermes at the time.

"Complete artist"

Birkin was an activist right up to the end. In 2022, she started a practice of chopping off a lock of hair to show solidarity with protesters in Iran, and had a part in the uprising of protests by Iranians at the time.

She reportedly had a stroke in 2021 and was continuing to recuperate. She had also injured her shoulder blade recently.

A few months before her death, she said she was trying to get healthy enough to perform again in the near future, but it was not to be.

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

He also said she was a "complete artist."

Fans gathered outside her house to mourn her passing. “She was a poet, a singer, an artist,” one of them, Marie-Jo Bonnet, said. “She gave the best of herself and that’s marvelous.”

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