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on 6 June 2001
a consice and passionate view of serge's loves and life. it starts from his familys humble beginnings to the legacy left by his death 10 years ago on french culture. it includes well researched facts and information given from jane birkin his partner and artistic collabrator backed up with full discography and filmography as well as listings of songs sung by other artists a french pop star who was never far from controversy! makes the rolling stones look like hearsay
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on 6 July 2001
I just finished reading Ms Simmons's book on Serge Gainsbourg and I'm still hyperventilating. By the end I was almost in tears. What an amazing story and really un put downable. I was too young to know about the scandal 'Je T'aime Moi Non Plus' caused and I really first got into Serge Gainsbourg via Histoire de Melody Nelson which I borrowed from a French friend. I was desperate to know more about him but gave up on my efforts to read the vast tomes about him in French. When Clayson's book came out I bought it as the only english one on offer. What a waste of paper. He didn't seem to even like Serge let alone know the first thing about him or French music. Sylvie Simmons's book is the complete opposite. Absolutely loved it and would recomment it to anyone.
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on 23 February 2006
Sylvie Simmons is suitably enthusiastic about her subject; never once questioning or criticising Serge. This is rather more a glorification of him, which is understandable, because given the evidence we're presented with here, he was a musical genius, a brilliant wit, an endearing eccentric, and surprisingly, a loyal family man. One develops an affection for Serge throughout the course of the book; relishing in his excesses, complicit with even the most grotesque of his fetishes. To be sure, the putrid did hold a certain fascination for Gainsbourg, as documented in the chapter 'The Art of Farting'.
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.
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on 14 July 2010
I read this book when it came out and it left me disappointed. I thought the writing was terrible and I thought the subject was under-researched, I suppose it was written for the 'English' market. It was nothing more than an extended Mojo article (I believe that is who Ms Simmons writes for)and not the meaty biography the English speaking world is gagging for (well, I was gagging for, I guess), it is nothing more than 'Serge Light' and you never really get the feeling or the impact of the real Serge Gainsbourg. Compare that with say the biography of Janice Joplin by Alice Echols and you really feel hard done by. Echols' book is well researched and puts the subject into a historical context, it makes for a highly interesting read. Ms Simmons book is just a poor little biography, badly written and lacking any sort of passion or compassion for her subject. Shame, Serge deserves so much more especially since he loved England and the English so much.
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on 4 December 2010
Some great artists are not merely superior craftsmen, but so unique, they stand aside from all their contemporaries. Serge Gainsbourg was one such artist.

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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on 19 October 2012
Easy to read and informative. Pictures were slightly disappointing quality. However this shouldn't detract from a solid and enjoyable piece of writing about this hugely colourful individual.
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