Lemon Incest

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"Lemon Incest"
Lemon incest.jpg
Single by Serge Gainsbourg and Charlotte Gainsbourg
from the album Love on the Beat
B-side"Hmm Hmm Hmm"
  • 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 on 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".[citation needed] 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 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]

On the French Singles Chart, the single went straight to number seven on October 26, 1985. It climbed to number six for two weeks, then reached number two and stayed there for four consecutive weeks, being unable to dislodge the two number-one hits Century's "Lover Why" and Jean-Jacques Goldman and Michael Jones' "Je te donne". It then began to fall on the chart. The song totalled 10 weeks in the top 10 and 18 weeks in the top 50.[4]

Uses in media[edit]

The track is also used in the 2009 film Genova.[5]

Track listings[edit]

7-inch single[edit]

  1. "Lemon Incest"
  2. "Hmm Hmm Hmm"

CD maxi[edit]

  1. "Lemon Incest"
  2. "Hmm Hmm Hmm"
  3. "Lemon Incest" (video)

CD single[edit]

  1. "Lemon Incest" – 5:12
  2. "Hey Man Amen" (Live Zénith 1988) by Serge Gainsbourg – 4:04


Chart (1985–1986) Peak
France (SNEP)[4] 2


Country Certification Date Sales certified Physical sales
France[6] Gold 1985 200,000 477,000[7]


  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 "Charlotte & Gainsbourg – Lemon Incest" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Genova: "Genova, mon amour"". Indy Media. 7 March 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  6. ^ French certifications Chartsinfrance.net (Retrieved October 3, 2008)
  7. ^ Gainsbourg's certifications and sales in France See: "Les Ventes" => "Toutes les certifications depuis 1973" => "GAINSBOURG Charlotte & Serge" Infodisc.fr Archived 2012-07-13 at WebCite (Retrieved October 3, 2008)