At the 95th anniversary of Charles Aznavour

If the singer, actor, public activist, diplomat and French composer of Armenian origin were alive, he would be 95 years old. He has been recognized as one of the most famous French singers and with the longest career. He stands beside Edith Piaf or Mireille Mathieu. He has pen over 1300 songs, over 1400 recordings, used to sing in 8 different languages, many of which have turned into international successes. Over his life he sold over 180 million albums. Aznavour is an actor appearing in 90 films being many times awarded for his exceptional career and prestige. Music critic Stephen Holden used to call him as the “French God of Pop Music” because he like Frak Sinatra and Elvis Presley was one of the most important and attractive singer of the twentieth century and the longest star of pop music.

Aznavour was born on May 22, 1944 in Paris. He was the son of an Armenian immigrant couple. His father was a musician and used to have had a small restaurant, while the mother graduated in  literature dealing with acting. His father ‘s restaurant was called “Le caucasus” but as he was very big hearted man  the business began to collapse. Little Charles was immediately dedicated to his artistic gifts. He said, “I quit school very soon, but before I left I got a certificate that I’m very proud of, even though it has no value. The next diploma I received came 70 years later and was the title” Doctor Honoris Causa “.

During the Nazi occupation, he sang in cabaret to keep alive also the French patriotic spirit. His father became a member of the French resistance and defender of armen imigrants andtens of  Russians Jews and white from German danger. When he was 22, he was lucky enough to get noticed out from Edith Piaf, who encouraged him to have a music carrier.  So with the pianist Pierre Rock they accompanied the French artist in France and the US, which was an artistic but not financial achievement for him. Charles lived 8 years with Piaf and she was the one what encouraged  him to look for a professor of canto and discover everything he had to do with his voice. She also encouraged him to interpret his own compositions.

He said: “The young people who Piaf used to help to be on the stage were her lovers, but that was not my case, she supported me for completely different reasons, my past very well matched her past. My parents were foreigners  who did not speak French, they let me and my sister to become street children just as Edit Piaf was, which brought us closer. “

French criticism precisely because hewas under the protection of a great artist used to call him  – Very ugly, very short, and with a terrible voice. But this young man did not let himself be discouraged and in 1950 he recorded his first success while performing his own  song.

In this period we find out about the artist’s concerns about his “defects”: “My voice, appearance, gestures, lack of culture, little school, sincerity and lack of personality all these disavantage me,” the artist witnessed at the time.

After the first success, Piaf recommended him making an aesthetic intervetion to improve the physical aspect, but she was the one that used to joke him by saying, “I used to like you better before”

For years Aznavour composed mostly for famous singers and in 1956 performed the first successful recital in Kasablanca (Casablanca) where the public and press expressed great praise for the Armenia origin musician. There was another concert, this time in Paris in front of a public with pretensions that he was awaited with ovations. His song “Je m’voyais deja” composed for IV Montagne years ago, which he had called as an lack of inspiration, was transformed from this moment onwards into an extremely appreciated song. The success of this period brought the spotlight and criticism, and the contracts did not delay. Of this period there is also the famous song “La boheme” written in 1965. The once poor artist of the time had France used to havenow the entire musical world under his foot, becoming one of the wealthiest and most valued artists . In the 1970s, he also captured the Anglo-Saxon audience. The media across the ocean called him a “French Sinatra”. In 1974, the song titled “She” was ranked first in the British charts and this was three times faster than any other song up to that time. It was time when the charts were dominated by rock music.

The first time he got  married was in 1946 from which he had two children. Seven years later the couple divorced. Then he remarried and in 1956 from this marriage comes a boy who unfortunately died at age 25. Charles divorces again in 1960.  In 1967 he married a Swedesh woman who turned to be the love of his life and with whom he had three children. On his family he kept saying: “I am a French Catholic with Armenian roots, my wife is a Protestant Swedesh, I have an Algerian Muslim brother in law and a Jewish grandson. We understand very well that we do not discuss another’s faith but respect it.”

In 1976 he moved to Switzerland and remained deeply proud of being French but without forgetting Armenian roots. In 1975, he dedicated a very impressive song to the Armenian genocide. When in 1988 Armenia was hit by a strong earthquake, within 24 hours he founded the Aznavuor for Armenia Foundation, which brought together and contributed a substantial amount to the country’s reconstruction. In his honor a square in Yerevan holds his name, while the city that suffered more devastation dedicatim him a statue. Azanvuri Museum House was built in Yerevan’s center, which was also visited by President Sarkozy.

In 2008 he received Armenian citizenship and in 2009 was named the Ambassador of Armenia in Switzerland. He has been the permanent representative of Armenia in UNESCO.


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