On 11th March 1984 during the live TV show Sept sur sept, controversial French singer-songwriter and director Serge Gainsbourg outraged the entire country by setting light to a 500-franc banknote. A protest against heavy taxation on his income, the gesture was considered tasteless in such a time of high national unemployment. Although outcries followed, Gainsbourg went unpunished.
By 1984, Gainsbourg had become a regular on TV but the early promise he had shown was all but gone. He would appear drunk and unshaven to interviews (and on one occasion, passed out while telling an obscene story about Brigtte Bardot and a champagne bottle). He told “I want to fuck her,” about Whitney Houston. But by the time of his death of a heart attack in 1991, all was forgiven: President Mitterrand paid a heart-rending tribute: “He was our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire….He elevated the song to the level of art.”