Thursday, 8 May 2014

Les Triplettes de Belleville - Biography

I have not forgotten my promise to Celeste to record the various histories of those lovely sisters that made up Les Triplettes. From their early days working their way to the top of the bill in cabaret shows around the world, but particularly in the French-speaking world.  The sisters were multi-lingual but always sang in French.

The first thing you need to understand is that the sisters weren't really triplets, that was their stage name. Anna-Marie and Anna-Celeste (usually referred to solely as Celeste) were twins and Yvette was the older sister by 16 months. Anna-Marie was the youngest by 15 minutes. This does affect the dynamics of Les Triplettes and their sometimes complicated relationships, but that's for the biography.

Anna-Marie was always considered the sweetest and most gentle of the sisters with never a cross word or look. When war broke out and the Occupation began, Anna-Marie and Celeste continued starring in cabaret shows until Anna-Marie vanished one evening after one too many gestapo officers was found dead. Anna-Marie always carried a serrated knife in her jewelled handbag and she used her status as a musical star to great effect. Then she faded from sight, surfacing now and then to ruthlessly strike at the occupying force before vanishing again. Rumours were regularly spread that she'd been captured and tortured but she remained free until the end of the war and was declared a Hero of the Resistance. She rarely talked about her years of hiding and striking and accepted none of the honours she was awarded. She re-joined Celeste on stage and enjoyed great success.

Celeste is the sister we know least about. Despite keeping her career going and being almost permanently on tour, surprisingly little is known about Celeste. We know she accepted shows that would allow Anna-Marie to get close to the enemy during the war but always kept sufficient distance so that she couldn't be implicated. She funnelled the majority of her earnings during the war to Anna-Marie to spend as she saw fit. Celeste sang her way into the record books by having the first number 1 hit record with her painful version of 'Song of the French Partisan' immediately after the war which was dedicated to her sister.

Yvette was the wild child of the sisters, discovering early the highs and lows of chemical stimulants and eventually succumbing to the lures of heroin in the late 1930s. She stopped singing and eventually turned to prostitution during the war years and after to fund her habit. In one famous interview Celeste is quoted as saying she will feed and clothe Yvette but would not give her a franc in fear that it would be spent on the drug. Yvette was ever the mercurial sister and, seemingly overnight, decided to give up her habit and re-start her singing career and, through strength of will, that's exactly what she did. Les Triplettes were together again but Yvette also pursued a solo career that included a short season in Las Vegas in the mid '50s. It is thought that this is what led her to seduce Elvis when he was stationed in Germany a few years later to teach him what a mature woman wanted.

Les Triplettes continued their musical career well into the '60s and are photographed with The Beatles and Stones and Yvette is known to have been photographed with Dylan but those photos are yet to be released. There are rumours of a concept album but they remain rumours. They gradually stopped performing and recording as the musical landscape changed in the 1970s and age began to kick in. Even Les Triplettes must let age into their lives despite Celeste visiting London in 1977 specifically to check out the punk bands. There are a few grainy photographs of her in the audience for X-Ray Spex and the Sex Pistols.

Les Triplettes were last seen together at the trial of the mafia bosses who kidnapped Tour de France cyclists. There is no evidence to prove my assertions, but I suspect the spark was Anna-Marie's outrage at the mafia taking over a national sport when she heard Granny's suspicions. And, as ever, it was music that brought them together and formed the bond that broke the mafia. She is a brave one, that Anna-Marie. Watch out for the biography.

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