Jane Birkin Gives Us a Wakeup Call

Translated as “Oh! Sorry you were sleeping…” the forthcoming album from Jane Birkin, Oh! Pardon tu dormais… was initially inspired by a theatrical play Birkin had written, but “gradually, we moved away from this and more pressing, urgent themes emerged,” the 74-year-old singer, actress and fashion icon says. “Little by little, we drifted towards other horizons.”

Significantly, Birkin addresses for the first time in her music the death of her first daughter, Kate Barry, born in 1967 when Jane was married to film music composer John Barry, most know for his work on the James Bond movies. Kate Barry died in a fall from her fourth floor apartment in 2013, and it remains unclear whether it was suicide or an accident.

In the album’s first single, “Les jeux interdits” (“Forbidden Games”), Birken recalls a memory of Kate and second daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg (with French singer Serge Gainsbourg) playing as young children in a French cemetery, redecorating the graves and burying toys in solemn rituals.

The 13-song album, out Feb. 5th on Verve Records, also features two tracks in English, and music by best-selling French singer (and Saint Etienne collaborator, because of course) Étienne Daho (who co-wrote lyrics) and Jean-Louis Piérot, who also produced.

“Etienne helped me release a past pain, which saved me from melancholy and inertia,” Birkin recalls. “The three of us – Etienne, Jean-Louis and I – gave each other everything, we took everything from each other and I’m still stunned by how we worked together. We are this album’s parents… and this moves me.”

Photo by Nathanial Goldberg.