Charles Aznavour

Charles Aznavour, born Shahnour Varenagh Aznavourian [1], May 22, 1924, Paris) is a French singer, songwriter, actor, public activist and diplomat of Armenian descent. Besides being one of France’s most popular and enduring singers, he is also one of the most well-known singers in the world. He is known for his characteristic short figure and unique tenor[2] voice; clear and ringing in its upper reaches, with gravelly and profound low notes. He has appeared in more than 60 movies, composed about 1,000 songs (including at least 150 in English, 100 in Italian, 70 in Spanish, and 50 in German[3]), and sold well over 100 million records.[4]

In 1998, Charles Aznavour was chosen as Entertainer of the Century by CNN and users of Time Online from around the globe. He was recognized as the century’s outstanding performer, with nearly 18% of the total vote, edging out Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. He has sung for presidents, popes, and royalty, as well as at humanitarian events, and is the founder of the charitable organization Aznavour for Armenia along with his long-time friend and impresario Levon Sayan.

Aznavour started his global farewell tour in late 2006, which continues through this day. In 2009 he was appointed ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland, as well as Armenia’s permanent delegate to the United Nations at Geneva.[5]

Often described as the “Frank Sinatra of France”, Aznavour sings mostly about love. He has written musicals and about a thousand songs, and made more than one hundred records. Aznavour speaks and sings in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese, Neapolitan), which has helped him perform at Carnegie Hall and other major venues around the world. He also recorded at least one song from the 18th century poet Sayat Nova, in Armenian. Que C’est Triste Venise, sung in French, Italian (Com’è Triste Venezia), Spanish (Venecia Sin Ti), English (How Sad Venice Can Be), and German (Venedig in Grau), is one of Aznavour’s most famous multilingual songs.

In 1974 Aznavour became a major success in the United Kingdom where his song “She” went to #1 in the UK Singles Chart.[6] Globally it sold over one million copies by July 1975, and was awarded a gold disc.[7] His other well-known song in the UK was “Dance in the Old Fashioned Way“.[6]

Artists who have covered his songs and collaborated with Aznavour include Fred Astaire, Andrea Bocelli, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli, Josh Groban, Shirley Bassey, José Carreras, Laura Pausini, Nana Mouskouri and Julio Iglesias. Fellow French pop legend Mireille Mathieu has sung and recorded with Aznavour on numerous occasions. In 1974, Jack Jones recorded an entire album of Aznavour compositions entitled “Write Me A Love Song, Charlie”, re-released on CD in 2006 [8]. Aznavour and Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti sang Gounod’s aria Ave Maria together. He performed with famed Russian cellist and friend Mstislav Rostropovich to inaugurate the French presidency of the European Union in 1995. Elvis Costello recorded “She” for the film Notting Hill. One of Aznavour’s greatest friends and collaborators from the music industry is legendary Spanish operatic tenor Plácido Domingo, who often performs his hits, most notably a studio recording of “Les bateaux sont partis” in 1985, as well as multiple live renditions Aznavour’s “Ave Maria”. In 1994, Aznavour performed with Domingo and Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø at Domingo’s third annual Christmas in Vienna concert. The three singers performed a variety of carols, medleys, and duets, and the concert was televised throughout the world, as well as released on a CD internationally.[9]

At the start of autumn in 2006, Aznavour initiated his farewell tour, performing in the US and Canada, and earning very positive reviews. Aznavour started 2007 with concerts all over Japan and Asia. The second half of 2007 saw Aznavour return to Paris for over 20 shows at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, followed by more touring in Belgium, the Netherlands, and the rest of France. He has repeatedly stated that this farewell tour, health permitting, will likely last beyond 2010. At 86, Aznavour is in excellent health, although admittedly 60 years on stage have made him “a little hard of hearing”.[10] He still sings in multiple languages and without persistent use of teleprompters, but typically sticks to just two or three (French and English being the primary two, with Spanish or Italian being the third) during most concerts.[11] On 30 September 2006, Aznavour performed a major concert in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia to start off the cultural season “Arménie mon amie” in France. Former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan and French president Jacques Chirac, at the time on an official visit to Armenia, were in front-row attendance.[12]

In 2006, 82-year old Aznavour traveled to Cuba, where he, together with Chucho Valdés, recorded his new album Colore Ma Vie, presented at Aznavour’s Moscow concert in April 2007. Later, in July 2007, Aznavour was invited to perform at the Vieilles Charrues Festival.

Charles Aznavour singing, “Dance, In The Old Fashioned Way” -A song he not only made famous, but also one he composed.

“Forever Cool” (2007), an album from Capitol/EMI, features Aznavour singing a new duet of “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” with the voice of the late Dean Martin.

Aznavour finished a tour of Portugal in February 2008. On 18 January 2008 he participated as guest vocalist with the contestants of the French reality show Star Academy and sang his famous Emmenez-Moi with contestant Jérémy Chapron. Throughout the spring of 2008, Aznavour toured South America, holding a multitude of concerts in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay. Summer saw him in Quebec, and a return to Latin America followed in autumn.

Charles Aznavour’s newest album, the highly-anticipated international release of Duos, is a collaborative effort featuring Aznavour and his greatest friends and partners from his long career in the music industry, including Celine Dion, Laura Pausini, Josh Groban, Plácido Domingo, and many others.[13] It was released on various dates in December 2008 across the world.[14] His next album, Charles Aznavour and The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (previously known as Jazznavour 2), is a continuation in the same vein as his hit album Jazznavour released in 1998, involving new arrangements on his classic songs with a jazz orchestra and other guest jazz artists. It was released on November 30, 2009.[15]

Aznavour’s current tour, Aznavour en liberté [16], which started in late April 2009 with a wave of concerts across the United States and Canada, will again take him across Latin America in the autumn, as well as the USA once again.

Charles’ most popular English song, “She” 1974 recording.

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1 Comment

  1. A favorite of mine for decades. I’m taking it personally that you’ve included Aznavour in your very special collection of artists. Thanks once again, Paul.


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