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Serge Gainsbourg died on March 2, 1991, a month shy of his 63rd birthday. Though characterized as a womanizing alcoholic, the iconoclastic Frenchman always thought of himself as a homely little Jewish piano player who never asked to be a star, but as long as he was one then you had to accept him for what he was.

Gainsbourg’s early recordings were standard cabaret chanson, but in the ’60s he began incorporating everything under the sun into his quirky songs: calypso, surf music, smoky jazz. Late in the decade he pioneered a kind of cut-and-paste pop that prefigured hip-hop. “Initials B.B.,” an ode to the actress who shared his bed, was a cinematic march with chanting chorines; and his masterpiece, “Bonnie and Clyde,” which he sang as a shaky call-and-response with Brigitte Bardot herself, could have been sampled (that weird hoot in the back).

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