Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot Perform Outlaw-Inspired Love Song, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (1968)

In 1967, two icons of French pop­u­lar cul­ture went out on a date. It did­n’t go well. The usu­al­ly cool Serge Gains­bourg was so intim­i­dat­ed by Brigitte Bar­dot’s beau­ty that his noto­ri­ous charm failed him. Believ­ing he had blown his chance, Gains­bourg was sur­prised when Bar­dot tele­phoned and said he could make amends by writ­ing her “the most beau­ti­ful love song you can imag­ine.”

Gains­bourg respond­ed by writ­ing two songs. One was called “Bon­nie and Clyde.” It was inspired by that year’s hit film of the same name by Arthur Penn, star­ring Faye Dun­away and War­ren Beat­ty as the noto­ri­ous 1930s out­laws Bon­nie Park­er and Clyde Bar­row.

Gains­bourg com­posed the song around a French trans­la­tion of a poem Park­er wrote a few weeks before she and Bar­row were gunned down by law­men. (See footage from the scene of their death here.) It begins:

You’ve read the sto­ry of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you’re still in need;
of some­thing to read,
here’s the sto­ry of Bon­nie and Clyde.

Now Bon­nie and Clyde are the Bar­row gang
I’m sure you all have read.
how they rob and steal;
and those who squeal,
are usu­al­ly found dying or dead.

There’s lots of untruths to these write-ups;
they’re not as ruth­less as that.
their nature is raw;
they hate all the law,
the stool pigeons, spot­ters and rats.

They call them cold-blood­ed killers
they say they are heart­less and mean.
But I say this with pride
that I once knew Clyde,
when he was hon­est and upright and clean.

But the law fooled around;
kept tak­ing him down,
and lock­ing him up in a cell.
Till he said to me;
“I’ll nev­er be free,
so I’ll meet a few of them in hell.”

The scene above, with Gains­bourg and Bar­dot per­form­ing the song, was broad­cast on The Brigitte Bar­dot Show in ear­ly 1968. The song was released lat­er that year on two albums: Ini­tials B.B. and Bon­nie and Clyde. The romance between Gains­bourg and Bar­dot was short. She returned to her sec­ond hus­band and he met actress Jane Birkin, with whom he record­ed the sec­ond song he wrote for Bar­dot: “Je t’aime…mois non plus,” which means “I Love You…Me Nei­ther.”

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.