Jane Birkin, singer, actor and designer handbag muse, dies at 76

Jane Birkin, the English actor, singer and fashion muse adored by France, has died. She was 76.

The Associated Press reported Birkin’s death on Sunday, citing France’s Ministry of Culture. She was found dead at her Paris home, according to French media reports. No cause of death was given.

In recent years, Birkin experienced health issues that forced her to scale back public performances and appearances. The veteran entertainer canceled multiple shows in 2021 and 2023 after suffering a mild stroke and a broken shoulder blade, respectively, according to French broadcaster BFMTV.

She was supposed to return to the stage in May but opted to postpone her comeback until the fall.

Born in London and worshiped in France, Birkin rose to prominence as the creative and romantic partner of French musician Serge Gainsbourg. The former couple was revered and reviled for their sultry duets, such as the 1969 hit “Je t’aime moi non plus” (I Love You, Me Neither).

Birkin, famed for her effortlessly chic personal style, was also known for inspiring the Hermès luxury handbag that bore her surname. The Paris fashion house launched the designer purse as an homage to the performer in 1984.

The trendy and astronomically expensive Birkin bag has since carved a legacy of its own — as a status symbol famously flaunted by fashionistas and socialites, both real and fictional. (The Kardashians and the women of “Sex and the City,” to name a few.)

“On my obituary, it will say, ‘Like the bag’ or something,” Birkin joked in a 2018 interview with CBS. “Well, it could be worse.”

But Birkin’s influence stretched far beyond the bag. Her fringed hairstyle, affinity for denim and signature pout were considered a distinctly French look coveted to this day by people across the globe.

She also appeared in dozens of films released in both English and French. Her screen credits included 1966’s “Blow-Up,” 1978’s “Death on the Nile” and 1982’s “Evil Under the Sun.”

Jane Birkin during a party in 1972 to launch her record

Jane Birkin at Rome’s night club Cabala 25 in 1972, during a party to launch her record “Black and White.”

(Gianni Foggia / Associated Press)

In a tweet translated by Google, French President Emmanuel Macron fondly remembered Birkin as “a complete artist.”

“Because she embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon,” Macron wrote.

“Her voice was as sweet as her engagements were fiery. She bequeaths us tunes and images that will never leave us.”

In addition to working as a singer and actor, Birkin was also an activist who campaigned for Amnesty International, advocated for Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, raised awareness during the AIDS crisis and most recently voiced support for women’s rights in Iran.

Birkin is survived by her and Gainsbourg’s daughter, actor and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as another daughter, musician Lou Doillon, whom she shared with French director Jacques Doillon. Kate Barry — her daughter with James Bond composer John Barry — died in 2013 at age 46.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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