Lemon Incest

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"Lemon Incest"
Single by Serge Gainsbourg and Charlotte Gainsbourg
from the album Love on the Beat
B-side "Hmm hmm hmm"
Format 7" single, CD maxi, CD single
Recorded 1984
Genre Synthpop
Length 5:12
Label Philips
Writer(s) Serge Gainsbourg, Frédéric Chopin
Producer(s) Philippe Lerichomme, Billy Rush

"Lemon Incest" is a song written, composed and performed by Serge Gainsbourg in duet with his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg. Recorded in 1984, the song was released as a single from Gainsbourg's album Love on the Beat in 1985. It is also available on Charlotte's 1986 album Charlotte for Ever. It was controversial because of its theme, but nevertheless successful, reaching number 2 in the French charts.

Lyrics, music and video[edit]

The title is a play on words in French in the chorus between "Un zeste de citron" ("A lemon zest") and "Inceste de citron" ("lemon incest").

The music is based on Étude Op. 10, No. 3 in E major by Frédéric Chopin.

The verses sung by Charlotte "are quickly short of breath and lack to give a relief to the singing which is beautiful nevertheless". Gainsbourg sings with "a repetitive phrasing which takes some liberties with the melody".[1] The background vocals are sung by The Simms Brothers Band.

The music video shows Gainsbourg, shirtless and in jeans, and Charlotte, wearing a shirt and panties, lying on a bed.


This song has caused a scandal as it was accused of glamorising pedophilia and incest. Charlotte, who then was thirteen, sings ambiguous lyrics seeming to refer to an impossible physical love between an adult and his child. In addition, the relationship between the two singers is the same as the protagonists of the song, which led to suspicions on the autobiographical nature of the work. Serge Gainsbourg denied these allegations in the media.[2] In an interview in 2010 Charlotte defended her decision to record the track, though acknowledging it was a "provocation".[3]

Chart performances[edit]

The single went straight to #7 on October 26, 1985. It climbed to #6 for two weeks, then reached #2 and stayed there for four consecutive weeks, being unable to dislodge the successive two number-one hits Century's "Lover Why" and Jean-Jacques Goldman and Michael Jones' "Je te donne". Then it kept on dropping on the chart and totalled ten weeks in the top ten and 18 in the top 50.[4]

To date, the song is the 630th best-selling single of all time in France.[5]

Uses in media[edit]

The track is also used in the 2009 film Genova.[6]

Track listings[edit]

7" single
  1. "Lemon Incest"
  2. "Hmm hmm hmm"
CD maxi
  1. "Lemon Incest"
  2. "Hmm hmm hmm"
  3. "Lemon Incest" (video)
CD single
  1. "Lemon Incest" — 5:12
  2. "Hey Man Amen" (Live Zénith 1988) by Serge Gainsbourg — 4:04


Country Certification Date Sales certified Physical sales
France[7] Gold 1985 200,000 477,000[8]


Chart (1985-1986) Peak
French SNEP Singles Chart[4] 2


  1. ^ Elia Habib, Muz hit. tubes, p. 55,56 (ISBN 2-9518832-0-X)
  2. ^ Serge Gainsbourg, by Hubert Bregent Fdaf.org (Retrieved October 3, 2008)
  3. ^ 'I didn't like feeling fragile' BBC. 23 January 2010
  4. ^ a b "Lemon Incest", French Singles Chart Lescharts.com (Retrieved October 3, 2008)
  5. ^ Best-selling singles of all time in France Infodisc.fr (Retrieved October 3, 2008)
  6. ^ "Genova: "Genova, mon amour"". Indy Media. 7 March 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  7. ^ French certifications Chartsinfrance.net (Retrieved October 3, 2008)
  8. ^ Gainsbourg's certifications and sales in France See: "Les Ventes" => "Toutes les certifications depuis 1973" => "GAINSBOURG Charlotte & Serge" Infodisc.fr (Retrieved October 3, 2008)