“Le masque tombe, l’homme reste, et le héros s’évanouit.” – Serge Gainsbourg
There have been too many instances where a public figure, an artist we have held in high regards, has gone against all the values that we stand for. Their behaviour as a human being would be, without a doubt, condemnable – even though their art has been truly awe-inspiring. It is in these moments that we need to get out of our little bubble and see people for who they are, even if it means acknowledging the fact that the people we had known to be the best, weren’t all that flawless after all.
“The mask falls, the man remains, and the hero vanishes.” Serge Gainsbourg was in equal parts as talented as he was controversial. In the latter part of his life, he had become downright disrespectful towards people making vulgar comments at women including Whitney Houston and Catherine Ringer. His image in people’s eyes has steadily deteriorated after the incidents and the effortless cool that surrounded him like sweet perfume had now dissipated.
But, before that, Serge Gainsbourg had been, in his own right, an artist to be reckoned with. Born in 1928, in Paris, France, Gainsbourg was a singer-songwriter, author, filmmaker and actor. Primarily a musician, Gainsbourg was acclaimed for being one of the most popular figures in French pop music. What set Gainsbourg apart was the clear anti-establishment sentiment in his songs. At the same time, the singer had achieved quite a reputation for the controversial and sexually-charged lyrics of his tunes.
Apart from his musical career, Serge Gainsbourg had also spent his time as an actor on screen. Le Pacha (1968), directed by Georges Lautner, was one film that saw Gainsbourg appearing as himself in the movie. He also composed the soundtrack for the film and Michel Colombier. It featured one of his most popular songs ‘Requiem Pour Un Con’, remastered digitally from the original tapes.
Before its release, Le Pacha was brought in front of the censorship commission because of its portrayal of the police force in a poor light. ‘Requiem Pour Un Con’ was fated for the same. With the lyrics considered too scandalous, the film first came with an under-18 ban, which was later reassessed to under-13.
The film contained an “impromptu” music video for the song. It saw Gainsbourg with his crew and a potential witness of a murder, in the movie. The scene played out with Gainsbourg smoking a cigarette and stepping up to the mic to play his song. At the end of the song, the sound engineer called at him, saying, “C’est bonne, Serge,” at the end of the scene, Gainsbourg said “Voilà” and walked out of the studio.
Serge Gainsbourg has been a monumental name in French music and has been one of the most influential artists of all time, worldwide.
Here’s a clip of Gainsbourg in Le Pacha for you to watch.