Jane Birkin, the icon British-born actress, singer, and model who rose to fame in France as a chart-topping performer with her then-partner Serge Gainsbourg, has died at the age of 76.
The French culture ministry revealed Birkin’s death on Sunday, saying she was discovered dead at her Paris residence. However, there was no mention of a cause of death.
Birkin recently canceled shows for undisclosed health reasons; she has also suffered a stroke and fought leukemia in recent years.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Sunday, “Because she embodied freedom because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon. A complete artist, her voice was as sweet as her engagements were fiery. She bequeaths us tunes and images that will never leave us.”
Birkin was a Swinging London fixture, appearing in films such as Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup and the George Harrison-soundtracked Wonderwall before getting the main role in the French film Slogan with vocalist Serge Gainsbourg.
After relocating to France, Jane Birkin and Gainsbourg rerecorded his song “Je t’aime… moi non plus,” previously a duet between Gainsbourg and Brigette Bardot, in 1969, and the track became a Number One single in the United Kingdom, becoming the first foreign language song to do so.
Birkin appeared in many films with legendary directors such as Jean-Luc Godard (Keep Your Right Up! ), Jacques Rivette (Le Belle Noiseuse), Agnes Varda (One Hundred and One Nights, Kung Fu Master, and Jane B. par Agnes V.), Alain Resnais (Same Old Song), and Roger Vadim (Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman) over a seven-decade career.
Jane Birkin appeared also in two Agatha Christie adaptations, Death on the Nile (1978) and Evil Under the Sun (1982), as well as films such as James Ivory’s A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries.
Birkin made her directorial debut in 2006 with Boxes; her most recent on-screen appearance was in the documentary Jane by Charlotte, directed by her daughter Charlotte. Jane Birkin had a decade-long romance with filmmaker Jacques Doillion, which resulted in the birth of French vocalist Lou Doillon.
In a 2018 interview with “CBS Sunday Morning,” Birkin said “When I went to America, I don’t know in what interview, they said, ‘You mean Birkin, like the bag?’ I said, ‘Well, now, the bag is going to sing!’ I thought, ‘Oh gosh, on my obituary, it will say, ‘Like the bag’ or something,'”. Birkin told Anthony Mason, senior culture and national correspondent for CBS News.
“It’s so funny that, after all this, you might be known for a bag,” Mason said.
“I might. Well, could be worse,” Birkin said.