London-born singer, actress, and fashion icon Jane Birkin passed away on July 16, at the age of 76, by natural causes, 16 years following her cancer diagnosis and two years after experiencing a stroke. Her life was marked by remarkable contributions to the world of entertainment and activism.
The late actress built a career both as a singer and actress during the 1960s and beyond. She debuted her silver screen with minor roles in Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Blowup’ and ‘Kaleidoscope.’ In 1968, she tried out for the main female part in the French movie ‘Slogan,’ and she got the role.
She acted alongside Serge Gainsbourg and sang the movie’s theme song, ‘La Chanson de Slogan,’ marking the beginning of their many collaborations. Following the filming of Slogan, Birkin decided to make France her permanent home.
Birkin found her true calling in France, where she rose to international fame by working with Gainsbourg. One of their other collaboration was releasing their duet, ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’ (‘I love you… me neither’), in 1969. Originally intended for Brigitte Bardot, this song stirred controversy with its sensual lyrics.
As a result, the song was banned by radio stations in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. In the 1970s, she launched three albums, primarily composed by Gainsbourg: ‘Di doo dah,’ ‘Lolita Go Home,’ and ‘Ex fan des sixties.’ She released over fourteen studio albums during her lifetime.
Besides her musical endeavors, the singer continued to grace the screen with other performances, including appearances in Agatha Christie adaptations such as ‘Death on the Nile’ and ‘Evil Under the Sun.’
Outside of her art, the actress used her fame to support causes she cared about. She was an activist who opposed far-right ideas in France and fought for human rights and fairness. From early protests against the death penalty in London to her strong backing of women’s rights in the 1970s, Birkin’s dedication was clear.
She also became associated with the famous Hermès Birkin bag. While chatting with Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight and sharing their dislike for weekend bags, she unwittingly inspired this fashion item. The Birkin bag soon became a symbol of high status and opulence, with some selling for an astonishing $500,000.
As we reflect on her career, Jane’s estimated net worth at the time of her passing was approximately $20 million, amassed through her achievements as both an actress and a singer. Birkin is survived by her daughters, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon. Her third daughter, Kate Barry, passed away in 2013 at the age of 46.
Her substantial estate, which includes residences in Paris and Brittany, has been left to her two surviving daughters. While specific details of her estate remain private, it’s known that Birkin owned two residences—one in the fashionable 6th arrondissement of Paris and another on the Brittany coast in the Prat-Ar-Coum mansion. However, the latter has since changed ownership.