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Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes Paperback – 10 Jun 2002
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A dizzying, wry requiem. Smokin'! -- Uncut
A highly entertaining biography of the French singer-songwriter and all-round scallywag. -- JG Ballard, The Guardian
A wonderful introduction to one of the most overlooked songwriters of the 20th century. -- The Times
Gitanes is a stone masterpiece -- Stephen Davis, author of Hammer of the Gods
The most intrigueing music-biz biography of the year -- The Independent on Sunday
From the Publisher
Serialised in The Guardian and the only English language Serge Gainsbourg biography to be translated into French, this is the definitive biography of the ultimate French icon. The new edition contains a brand new full index.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
However, I found Simmons' biographical style rather weak, and her writing is merely average. To her credit though, her style isn't intrusive, and her palpable enthusiasm for Serge gives these pages it's momentum. Jane Birkin's insights, which are invaluable and frequent throughout the book, lend a certain authority, so this does feel like the definitive story, though I can't say for sure as it's the first Gainsbourg biography I've engaged with. It's an easy read, and it does convince you of Gainsbourg's cultural significance, by featuring interviews with Beck, Mick Harvey, and other noteworthies.
Highly recommended if you're curious about Gainsbourg, as it's entertaining, compulsive, and quite thorough.
I noticed this book got some bad reviews - mainly from French and international Gainsbourg afficionados - to whom most of the content will be common knowledge.
But as a relative newcomer, I was pleasantly surprised by this short and easily-read biography. It was unfortunately written after Gainsbourg's death - the author never met him - and it is clearlt intended as an short and entertaining summary of his life and work. It is certainly not the definitive biography - Simmons herself recommends Gilles Verlant's "Gainsbourg" for that. Biographies in Paperback: Gainsbourg
The author quotes generously from her interviews with people who knew Serge - Jane Birkin, not least - and paints a clear picture of the kind of man Gainsbourg was: Restlessly creative, painfully shy, yet devil-may-care - and maybe most surprisingly, a devout family man. In fact, I can't remember reading any other musician's biography (and a heavy-drinking French musician at that) that doesn't imply any sort of infidelity.
The only disappointment in the book is the treatment of Serge's work itself. Being no Paul Morley, Simmons doesn't indulge in wordy descriptions of Serge's music - and maybe just as well. Of course music needs to be listened to, rather than read about - but if you don't know the music in advance, this book hardly does much to encourage you.
And of course, there are the lyrics. Serge's punny French wordplays (think triple entendre rather than double) are notoriously un-translatable. Though Simmons should get credit for giving it her best shot when needed.
Still, this book offers the perfect companion to a set of Gainsbourg cds - eiter a good compilation Gainsbourg Forever or the massive complete works Gainsbourg Forever. The music is like nothing you ever heard - and the book offers some fine insights into the enigmatic man behind the work.
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