Success may have eluded French singer Charlotte Leslie – also known as Catherine Alfa and Rosa Borg – but her records remain much in demand among fans of femme pop.
She was born Rosetta Aiello on 18 December 1945 in Gabès, Tunisia, to Italian parents. The family upped and moved to Lens, in northern France, when she was still a young girl. At 13, she quit school to work in a local factory.
In 1963, she won a local singing contest organised by AZ Records, having performed Le ciel d’Italie, a song her father had written. As a result, she was offered a contract with the label.
Under the name Catherine Alfa, she issued her debut disc later that year. The EP led with Tu es pris au piège, a translation of Don’t try to fight it baby, which had been penned by US songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
French songwriters Daniel Hortis and Jimmy Walter – who between them had written for the likes of Sylvie Vartan, Anne Kern and Agnès Loti – were roped in to provide all four tracks for the follow up EP, Tu m’as trahie, issued in 1964. (Walter, in particular, would write many further tracks for the singer over the course of her career.) Tout est là proved the highlight of the disc.
Both releases gained plenty of airplay but failed to provide a chart breakthrough for the singer, and she left the label.
Bosses at the Polydor spotted her potential and snapped her up. At the suggestion of established star Guy Mardel, she ditched the stage name that hadn’t served her overly well, to become Charlotte Leslie. It is by this name that she is now best known.
Her first release for the new label was Ça m’est égal, in 1966. The EP is much prized amongst fans, but not for the lead track – instead it is the cracking dance tune Les filles c’est fait, a fuzzed-up version of US soul group The Capitols’ We got a thing that’s in the groove, that has collectors hot under their John Stephen collars.
L’hiver en été, a tune adapted from a piece by Bach, became the lead track of her follow up, issued in 1967. The EP artwork confused record buyers, as it appeared to suggest that L’ennui en robe dorée was the principal tune. In any case, neither song proved terribly tempting, though the witty C’est pas la peine has its admirers.
Poupée sans âme became her first EP of 1968 and proved one of her most consistently good releases. The plaintive title track and Allez, tu peux souffrir, another highly danceable number, are perhaps the most highly regarded. She promoted the disc on a tour of France, supporting Claude François, and of Belgium, as the opening act for Adamo, and went on to headline a tour behind Europe’s Iron Curtain.
A switch to the Barclay label that year saw her issue the disappointing Sur la montagne EP.
In 1970, the anthemic Monsieur Harrison – an ode to The Beatles’ guitarist – became her final release under the name Charlotte Leslie. In fact, the sleeve credits Charlotte Leslie with the Clastic Bodo Band, and – predating the celebrity endorsements that are so commonplace today – states that Charlotte’s clothes were provided exclusively by the H fashion house. Mint copies of the single now swap hands for hundreds of euros.
After one further release, On est heureux quand on se quitte, issued in 1971, she abandoned the music business.
She resurfaced briefly in 1974 on a duet with King David called The way I love you and again in 1981 as Rosa Borg (Borg was her mother’s maiden name). In this guise she released Recuerdos de mi vida, a song she had helped to write. It proved no more successful than her earlier releases and prompted no follow up.
More recently, she is understood to have been working in a department store in Paris and continuing to write music in her spare time.
Our pick of the pops
Les filles c'est fait
Allez, tu peux souffrir
Tu es pris au piège
C'est pas la peine
Poupée sans âme
L'air qui disait je t'aime
Buy online now
Pop à Paris, vol 1: Contact
Tout est là