In greatness usually only imaginable in my wildest dreams, my obsession with French sixties pop music and American gangsters came together in a beautiful union in 1967. One of the most famous (and infamous) couples of the Sixties, bombshell sex symbol Brigitte Bardot and famed womanizer Serge Gainsbourg, took on the roles of a perhaps even more infamous pair of lovers: Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. While I love me some Dillinger and Ma Barker, and I'm fascinated by the men from Murder Inc., Bonnie and Clyde still hold the top spot for me. It's not just their terribly romanticized lifestyle that's been perpetuated over the years (I know that Bonnie didn't really wear heels, and those pencil skirts would've slowed down her getaway run) - though I do love buying into that - but also because they were born, bred, robbing, and dead in my hometown. (Both Bonnie and Clyde are buried in Dallas, and I once ate at a restaurant that used to be a famous jail, and dined in the cell that once housed W.D. Jones, member of the Barrow Gang. I know, I'm awesome).
Serge and Brigitte's song "Bonnie and Clyde" was recorded in 1967, perhaps the peak of the pop culture obsession with these Depression-era bank robbers, as it was also the year that Arthur Penn released his film Bonnie and Clyde. The film changed the entire nature of cinema, ushering in the New Hollywood era, and also launching the careers of Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons (who won an Oscar for her role as Blanche Barrow), and Gene Wilder (in his very first film role), as well as cementing Warren Beatty as a major player in Hollywood (he produced, starred, and gave uncredited contributions to the script of the film).
More importantly (to me at least), the film also tremendously influenced fashion, with the glam gal-on-the-run look coming back to the runways and magazines at least once every two years. (You can read my post on Faye's Bonnie looks here). It is no coincidence that Bardot is dressed in snug printed blouses, tailored pencil skirts, berets atop short blonde bobbed hair - the very same style of dress that Dunaway wore in the film. Serge and Brigitte prefer to channel the glammed, sexy version of Bonnie and Clyde, rather than the rough-and-tumble reality of the two on-the-run gangsters.
The song is typical Gainsbourg genuis - sometimes a bit random, and always a bit inappropriate, the darker tones of the song are masked by the catchy melody and the sweet singing voices of the duo. The lyrics were inspired by a poem entitled "The Trail's End" (now known as "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde"), written by Miss Parker herself only weeks before her and Clyde's fatal shootout with the police.
Released in 1968, the tune and its accompanying video are both classic. The song is a must-have for fans not just of American gangster heroes and history, and not just for fans of French pop by the likes of Bardot and Gainsbourg, but for anyone who likes a fun tune to cruise around in their car and listen to with their windows rolled down. Trust me, if you do it you'll feel like a supreme badass.
Title: from "Bonnie and Clyde" (Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot)