ÉMINENCE GRISE

Legend of French Singer-Songwriter Serge Gainsbourg Looms Large on Spotify

June 24, 2019

Name just about any modern French or international superstar—Phoenix, Sebastien Tellier, Benjamin Biolay, David Bowie, Beck, Arctic Monkeys, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker—and they can probably trace their sound back to Serge Gainsbourg. The singer-songwriter was a trailblazer of multiple genres (pop, rock, funk, disco, chanson, and reggae among them) whose lyrical playfulness, innovative sounds, and overall influence echo through today’s music. Starting June 24 and continuing for several weeks, Spotify is celebrating his incredible legacy with several new Gainsbourg-inspired playlists.

Some of the playlists of his songs are organized into the genres he advanced, with the tracks curated in an order to suit the moment or mood of the day. Other playlists are compilations of songs by artists Gainsbourg influenced across those genres, including chanson, pop, indie, and hip-hop. Listeners can also use a new Which Gainsbourg Are You? tool to generate a customized Gainsbourg playlist.

Gainsbourg didn’t just influence French music. He wrote more than 500 songs that have been covered more than 1,000 times by other artists. He even is responsible for the 1965 hit Poupée de cire, poupée de son,” performed by France Gall, which won the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg that year.

Among Gainsbourg’s biggest hits was “Je t’aime moi non plus,” which he once called “the ultimate love song.” It was also perhaps an allegory for Gainsbourg’s personal life. He first recorded “Je t’aime moi non plus” with his lover at the time, Brigitte Bardot. They parted ways, and the song was re-recorded and released with Jane Birkin, with whom he had a daughter—the singer-actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. Her father wrote her 1986 album, Charlotte for Ever.

He also wrote songs for Petula Clark, Viktor Lazlo, Alain Chamfort, and dozens more.

Though he passed nearly three decades ago, Gainsbourg still has more than 700,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and his songs have been streamed more than 170 million times.

Check out the infographic below to further explore Serge Gainsbourg’s enduring popularity.

Listen to Initiales S.G, the new podcast exploring Gainsbourg’s life and work, narrated by French actor Melvil Poupaud, which includes a theme song by French pianist Chassol and interludes by singer Clara Luciani.