Actor and singer Jane Birkin, who charmed France with her English grace, natural style and accented French and made the country her home, has died at age 76.
The London-born star and fashion icon was known for her musical and romantic relationship with French singer Serge Gainsbourg. Their songs notably included the steamy “Je t’aime moi non plus” (“I Love You, Me Neither”), with Birkin’s ethereal, British-accented singing voice interlacing with his gruff baritone.
The style Birkin displayed in the 1960s and early 1970s — long hair with bangs, jeans paired with white tops, knit mini dresses and basket bags — still epitomizes the height of French chic for many women around the world.
Birkin also was celebrated in France for her political activism. In 2022, she joined other screen and music stars in France in chopping off locks of their hair in support of protesters in Iran. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Birkin’s daughter with Gainsbourg and also an actor in her own right, cut off a lock of her mother’s hair for the “HairForFreedom” campaign as Iran was engulfed by anti-government protests.
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Birkin as a “complete artist.”
“Jane Birkin was a French icon because she was the incarnation of freedom, sang the most beautiful words of our language,” he tweeted.
French media reported that Birkin was found dead at her Paris home. The French Culture Ministry tweeted that Birkin died Sunday. It hailed her as a “timeless Francophone icon.”
Birkin’s early movie credits included “Blow-Up” in 1966, credited with helping introduce French audiences to her “Swinging Sixties” style and beauty.
Birkin and Gainsbourg met two years later. She remained his muse even after the couple separated in 1980.
She also had a daughter, Kate, with James Bond composer John Barry. Kate Barry died in 2013 at age 46. Birkin had her third daughter, singer and model Lou Doillon, with French director Jacques Doillon.
French newspaper Le Figaro reported that Birkin had suffered from health issues in the past few years that kept her from performing and her public appearances became sparse.
BFM TV said Birkin suffered a mild stroke in 2021, forcing her to cancel shows that year. She canceled her shows again in March due to a broken shoulder blade.
A return to performing in May was put off, the French broadcaster said, quoting the singer as saying she needed a bit more time and promising her fans she would see them again come the fall.