A tainted beauty entered my life about 20 years ago, when I discovered the works of Serge Gainsbourg. It seems that I waited for almost all of my life to listen to such genius, that I had to do more than just listen. I also had to read Serge Gainsbourg, and therefore I published his short novel “Evguenie Sokolov.” Then some years later I published the great Gilles Verlant biography “Gainsbourg, ” which gives a complete picture of the man and his world.
As most can gather by now, my life is not like a straight ahead narration, where A go to B, and then C comes along. No, the journey is just as important as the results of that trip. I knew Gainsbourg’s music here and there, but didn’t fully grasp his genius till much later. It was when I discovered the works of Boris Vian, that I became a Gainsbourg fanatic. As my press is very much devoted to the works of Vian, I researched as much as possible about his life and times - and the name Gainsbourg comes up a lot, due to the fact that Vian was one of the first professional people to give Serge notice for his music. Gainsbourg was a fan of Vian’s music, but not so much for his books, but nevertheless, he never forgot the good word Boris gave him, because it was Vian’s foot that kept that door open for him to succeed in the French music world.
My press TamTam Books is very tightly winded up with the Vian motif, in that everything comes from that source. But using Vian as a foundation, leads to a lot of stuff, due to the fact he worked on so many levels in French pop culture. Musician, composer, writer, playwright, A&R for a record label, engineer, translator, and socialite for the Saint Germain des-pres society. Right there is a great canvass, and Gainsbourg is one of the participants in that giant work of art.
The beauty of Gainsbourg’s work is that it consists of all the greats of the French aesthetic past - especially the literature of the 19th century, for instance Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, and matches it with the talents of Charles Trenet and bingo, that hybrid becomes Gainsbourg. Like his much younger fellow artist, David Bowie, Gainsbourg was hungry to find new influences, new sounds, and he was also a great explorer, but he used his knowledge of the past, and went forward with respect to his music making. His private life was full of scandals, and his taste in women was the connoisseur preference. Like a lot of narratives it wasn’t always a good story, but when you look at the immense picture of him, and what he did in his lifetime, with respect to the world it was and is, he was simply an amazing artist. Happy birthday Serge Gainsbourg, and long may we enjoy your work, as well as the down and the numerous up’s in your (one’s) life.