Serge Gainsbourg / Love and the Human Condition *A note about @PWchaltas on Twitter

A note about @PWchaltas on Twitter: Seems I can’t gain access to my Twitter account so i can’t see “connect and  interactions”. Should any one want to reach me you can email me at till I can get this figured out . Thanks …Meanwhile a new post …

Serge Gainsbourg / Love and the Human Condition *

The first time that I ever heard of Serge Gainsbourg was on a trip to Paris with my wife last September . That trip will always linger in memory as a sort of an aesthetic and spiritual voyage into hell complete with a troubling beauty all its’ own . Just by chance my wife and I booked a small Hotel on Rue de Verneuil which happened to be right across the street from the residence of 60’s composer poet singer and musician Serge Gainsbourg . His residence has been turned into a sort of mausoleum & a shrine of graffiti. I noticed the front walls all full of graffiti and asked myself  why is all this here ? Not that graffiti is unusual in Paris at all . Paris has become a city of graffiti and more so of late…. it’s everywhere .  Some of  it is an expression of discontent but some of it, just sheer artistic expression in and of the street. What a beautiful gallery backdrop the Parisian streets are . Sometimes the two radically different expressions of beauty conflict . What piqued my interest on this particular wall of Gainsbourg graffiti was one depiction of Serge embracing his one time wife Jane Birkin whom I believe he deeply loved. She was apparently the love of his life . Unfortunately they divorced but he did remain close and very much connected to her right up until his death.
Near that depiction of his wife and himself a line read in French ” You know my little girl there is no cure for life”. I thought to myself that is very “Cohen ” but with a darker twist . That graffiti and a couple of very vivid dreams I had of Gainsbourg while staying in the hotel across from his residence triggered my fascination with Serge Gainsbourg . Serge who passed away at the age of 62 of a heart attack  still has a very loyal and almost fanatical cult following in France. ( and so does Leonard Cohen by the way )

Born Lucien Ginsberg, son of Jews who fled the Nazi occupation, he changed his name to Gainsbourg after his love of the art of Thomas Gainsborough. I soon found out from our charming & charismatic hotel  front desk attendant that Serge’s mother often visited the Gainsbourg residence but never stayed there after her son’s death. She always stayed in the same Hotel across the street from it . His daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, a famous singer in her own right from his marriage with Jane Birkin , visits & stays at the Gainsbourg  residence and insists as did her father that nothing be changed at the darkly appointed residence . One day while at the hotel I thought I might have seen Charlotte exiting from the mausoleum / residence.
Serge Gainsbourg’s favorite recurring musical theme  is love. A man of poetry,passion,  alcohol, cigarettes, love and lust he had many romantic partners & friends Including Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Slim with big ears, roman nose , bulging and always intense eyes , he was  not a physically  attractive man in a Hollywood sense of the word. He was a very talented musician/ singer , a gifted songwriter/poet and it seems to me a tortured but sensitive soul . He loved music art and obviously was completely absorbed by love in all it’s diverse forms and in all it’s offshoots . He had that attractive quality of being vulnerable, flawed ,and so ultimately susceptible  to the frailty of the human condition as we all are , yet always remained true to himself in his artistic expression regardless of the cost .  For some reason in spite of a sometime kamikaze and often passionate unbridled lifestyle, some of it I’m sure contrived for marketing and PR reasons , he was often described by friends and acquaintances as kind and a sensitive high priest of Love . As he progressed through his life journey ,that changed in certain ways. He also came to be  known as a “shock jock” of his time , however most of what was considered shocking  in his music and videos  is probably tame compared to some of the shock tactics , obscenity, sex , abandon & outrage that are sometimes expressed in the media and arts today . Although personally I think the large part of his sometimes outrageous behaviour and excess was a byproduct of something that was eating him up from inside : What was his inspiration ? Perhaps  love and lust, loss and disconnectedness may have been the sources of his pain and may have possibly ignited his music & verse. I say “ignited” because he was a musician /poet living in hell . Many poetic souls ,artists and writers occupy hell either temporarily or permanently.  Serge was one . Oscar Wilde, Sylvia Plath &  Bukowski are examples of others . Bukowski once wrote an appropriately titled collection of poems called “Pleasures of the Damned”. Some poets artists and writers  are preoccupied by hell and some even aspire to it . Nick Tosches is one of them . I read his book “King of the Jews” while i was staying in Paris on Rue de Vernueil that very same trip.
His book  was  a masterful & unorthodox work about the life and times of Arnold Rothstein son of a righteous man and a gambler who supposedly fixed the world series . Reading the book itself was a descent into hell all on its’ own.  I came out of reading it and offset it by reading Mathew .
Some of  these themes and threads are evident in the verse and video below  of Gainsbourg’s Song “Tha Javanaise” which is a dance ..The translation of the song follows:

The Javanaise

I had
a few
tough years.
Didn’t you
my true love.
at last
you crossed
my path
my true love

If you don’t mind
While dancing the Javanaise
our love lasted
as long as a song

What do
you think
that we
have seen
of true love?
Let me
tell you
I was
my true love.

If you don’t mind
while dancing the Javanaise
our love lasted
as long as a song.

In vain
draws me
to true love.
I was
to see
In you
this true love

If you don’t mind
while dancing the Javanaise.
our love lasted
as long as a song

Life is
when it’s
of true love
but that’s
the choice
you made
for us
my true love

If you don’t mind
while dancing the Javanaise
our love lasted
as long as a song.

1/ The video itself of Serge singing “The Javanaise” below demonstrates uniquely and graphically the changing nature and vulnerability of the human condition, as well as the music and lyrics of love and loss. Have a look  at all 4 videos of Serge Gainsbourg at  different stages of his  life .They are real eye openers..

2/ In the video clip below Serge is at an early, and more traditional part of his career. You can see the some of the quirkiness starting to coming out (This clip reminds me of vintage  footage I’ve seen of a young  Willie Nelson in suit and tie around the time  he wrote “Crazy”, long before the long hair and braids appeared on the scene )
3/ This is so cruel…very cruel ..Cohen’s phrase “Death of a Lady’s man ” comes to mind . You don’t have to understand French to know what is going on here …love and faith are the only things  that make the inevitable frailty of the Human condition bearable . The part where Gainsbourg holds up the picture of himself as a child with a shaky hand is particularly moving and striking.

4/ Gainsbourg’s  preoccupation with, and his taste in art, shown at the end of this video segment is interesting . “Raft of the Medusa” by Gercault is about a real life shipwreck and was a turning point in art and certainly indicative of .the human condition …..The saint with all the arrows……Love …… Pain ….Suffering ,,,,, This would have been an appropriate post for Feb 14th..

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