"Jackie" was written by the Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel and the French pianist Gérard Jouannest. Brel recorded the tune as "La chanson de Jacky" (The song of Jacky) on his 1966 album Ces Gens-Là.
One night at the Playboy Club in Park Lane, London, Scott Walker hooked up with a German waitress who introduced him to the music of Jacques Brel. "Brel's voice," he said, "was like a hurricane blowing through the room."
Walker had recently embarked on a solo career after the breakup of The Walker Brothers. He fell in love with Brel's risqué chansons; still finding his feet as a songwriter, Walker covered nine of Brel's compositions on his first three albums. His version of "La chanson de Jacky," translated from French into English and re-titled "Jackie," was released as his second single.
The original Belgian lyrics were translated into English by Mort Shuman, who was also responsible for the hit musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.
The single's lyrical content about a drug-taking fantasist who dreams of being "cute, in a stupid-ass way" met with controversy in the UK. It was banned by the BBC, and DJ Simon Dee fell into disfavor after he played it on his Radio 1 lunch time show.
Former Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond covered the song in 1991. Featuring a typically ambitious production by Trevor Horn, it reached #17 on the UK singles chart.