Jane Birkin, renowned actress and fashion icon, dead at 76

Jul 17, 2023
Jane Birkin skyrocketed to fame in the 1970s. Source: Getty

The world is again mourning the loss of another cultural icon following the passing of beloved singer and actress, Jane Birkin, who passed away at 76.

Her cause of death is yet to be revealed but it has been reported that her caregiver found her unresponsive in her home in Paris on Sunday, July 16.

It is also understood that Birkin faced significant health challenges in the years leading up to her death.

In March 2022, she broke her shoulder, forcing her to postpone a number of her concerts in Paris scheduled for May. This setback comes after a series of cancelled shows a year earlier after she had a stroked in September 2021. Birkin had also been diagnosed with leukemia, which she had been battling with since the early 2000s.

The English-born beauty, affectionately known as France’s “petite Anglaise”, will forever be remembered as the woman who embodied Parisienne chic, whose artistic love affair with French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg made them one of the era’s most honoured couple, and the perpetually stylish soul whose name became synonymous with one of the most sought after handbags in the world.

Tributes have poured in since news of her passing broke, with French President Emmanuel Macron being one of the first people to comment about her death, tweeting: “Because she embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words in our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon.”

Birkin was born in London in 1946, to an actress mother and naval officer father. She married her first husband, James Bond composer John Barry at the young age of 17, the marriage only lasted three years.

In 1968, Birkin moved to Paris to work on the film Slogan, where she crossed paths with Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg penned the now-famous song Je t’aime… moi non plus specifically for Birkin, catapulting them both into the international spotlight with its release in the same year.

Shortly after the release of her song, Birkin’s talent and allure quickly established her as a beloved figure in French cinema. She graced the screen in over 70 films, with some of her most notable appearances including memorable performances in films like Blow Up, La Piscine and Death on the Nile. 

Outside the entertainment industry, Birkin’s legacy includes being the inspiration behind the iconic Hermès Birkin handbag, which was introduced to the public in 1984. She was later honoured with the title of OBE for her services and achievements in the fields of acting and strengthening cultural ties between Britain and France.

She is survived by her daughter actor, singer and director Charlotte Gainsbourg.

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