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BeyondGeography's Journal
BeyondGeography's Journal
July 16, 2023

Jane Birkin, actor and singer, dies aged 76


The British-born actor and singer Jane Birkin has been found dead at her home in Paris, the French culture ministry said on Sunday.

Birkin, 76, was best known overseas for her 1969 hit in which she and her lover, the late French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, sang the sexually explicit Je t’aime … moi non plus. Birkin found fame in her adopted France, catapulted into the public eye by her turbulent relationship with Gainsbourg. Her heavily accented French became her personal style signifier. She crossed the channel in 1968 at the age of 22 to star in a film alongside Gainsbourg, who was 18 years her senior. It was the start of a 13-year relationship that made them France’s most famous couple, in the spotlight as much for their bohemian and hedonistic lifestyle as for their work.

The doe-eyed Birkin, with her soft voice and androgynous silhouette, quickly became a sex symbol, recording the steamy Je t’aime … moi non plus with a growling Gainsbourg. Banned on radio in several countries and condemned by the Vatican, the song was a worldwide success.

“He and I became the most famous of couples in that strange way because of Je t’aime and because we stuck together for 13 years and he went on being my friend until the day he died. Who could ask for more?” Birkin told CNN in 2006. “So Paris became my home. I’ve been adopted here. They like my accent.”


July 10, 2023

Seems Blossom Dearie is being rediscovered

Or just discovered:

‘She floored me. I was in shock’: Blossom Dearie, the jazz singer with the diminutive voice and vast talent

With a name akin to a character from Roald Dahl’s stories and an equally naive singing voice some labelled as childish, Blossom Dearie hardly exuded star quality. “She was definitely not an entertainer,” admits Arlene Corwin, a friend and jazz singing contemporary of Dearie’s in mid-century nightclubs. “But her piano was great, her songs so beautifully polished and jazzy. And, of course, that little voice – pitch perfect, modest, unembellished.”

Now, 14 years after her death aged 84, the maverick New Yorker’s music is being re-evaluated: Kylie Minogue and Feist are self-professed fans, R&B star Ravyn Lenae has namechecked her, Jack White’s label is reissuing her work, Fugees and De La Soul have sampled her and Dearie songs can be heard everywhere from Call the Midwife to Starbucks playlists. “It was the whole combination,” says mod icon Georgie Fame of his one-time friend and mentor. “The unique sound of her voice, her way of playing and accompanying herself, her choice of unusual material. It’s the presentation of all those things.”

…Her 2000 album Blossom’s Planet – followed three years later by a limited edition single, It’s Alright to Be Afraid – were her last recordings. Blossom gave a final performance in 2006 – by then her 1973 recording of Figure Eight (from Schoolhouse Rock, an educational cartoon) had been sampled by Fugees and De La Soul, alongside appearing on the soundtrack to Noah Baumbach’s comedy drama film The Squid and the Whale. In 2007 Minogue, a huge Blossom fan, proposed a collaboration – they met but Dearie, now being in fragile health, abstained. In 2009, she died in her sleep at her Greenwich Village apartment.

The obituaries were fulsome but its only now her catalogue is being given due respect: alongside the Verve and Fontana reissues, Blossom’s estate has been digitalising her Daffodil albums (most of which she issued solely on cassette). This would surely please a musician who devoted her life to her art – in her own quiet way. “I knew Blossom rather well,” reflects Corwin, “although it was never really possible to know her ‘well’ – she not being the most open of people. I recall visiting her in her tiny apartment in Sheridan Square and the main impression I was left with was how many hours she practiced: the upright piano had a blanket backside so as not to disturb the neighbours.”


She’s a lot of fun, especially her French songs. She can even be, dare I say, sublime.

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