Actress and singer Jane Birkin dies aged 76

Jane Mallory Birkin was born in London in December 1946. Her mother was an actress Judy Campbell and her father a naval officer David Birkin

German actor Hannelore Elsner dies aged 76
German actor Hannelore Elsner dies aged 76


British-French actress and singer Jane Birkin has passed away in Paris aged 76, the French Culture Ministry said on Sunday.

The London-born entertainer suffered from health problems in recent years that forced her to cancel concerts. She had a mild stroke in 2021.

Birkin first became famous internationally in 1969 when she and her lover, the late French musician Serge Gainsbourg, sang the controversial hit song "Je t' non plus" with sexually explicit lyrics.

Finding love in Paris

Jane Mallory Birkin was born in London in December 1946. Her mother was an actress Judy Campbell and her father a naval officer David Birkin.

Her first marriage came at 17, when Birkin married composer John Barry, himself famous for composing the iconic James Bond theme. Birkin and Barry had a daughter, Kate, but their marriage fell apart after only three years. 

In 1966, Birkin appeared nude in Michelangelo Antonioni's film "Blow-Up," as a part of a threesome sex scene.

Two years later, on a set of a romantic comedy in Paris, she met French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Although Gainsbourg was 18 years older, the two started a 13-year-long relationship that prompted Birkin to permanently move to Paris and eventually made them France's most famous couple.

The two also had a daughter, Charlotte, who became a successful actress and singer in her own right.

Moving away from Gainsbourg

Birkin was building her career and image in the 1970s, forming an iconic look which involved flared jeans, mini dresses and messy bangs. In 1980, she left Gainsbourg to focus on her movie career, which also included arthouse productions with many of France's leading directors.

However, Birkin and Gainsbourg continued to cooperate professionally, with Gainsbourg writing songs for her after their split. The songwriter, who struggled with alcoholism, died of a heart attack in 1991 aged 62.

Birkin continued to pursue her music career after Gainsbourg's death, releasing "A la Legere" in 1998, writing the album "Arabesque" in 2002, and publishing a collection of live recordings, "Jane at the Palace" in 2009.

Bag named 'Birkin'

The actress also left her mark in the world of fashion. In 1984, French luxury label Hermes named one of its handbags after her.

It is said that in 1981 Birkin was on a flight next to the late Jean-Louise Dumas, then CEO of Hermes. Birkin had tried to put her luggage in the overhead compartment and famously complained that she had yet to find a purse big enough to hold all of a woman's belongings. This prompted Dumas to prototype a bag that would become the iconic Birkin.

In 2015, Birkin asked Hermes to drop her name from the bag after animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alerted her to the cruel farming practices of crocodiles for their leather. She later relented after Hermes investigated the practices and found them to be an "isolated irregularity."

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