French singer Charles Aznavour, who rose to fame under the wing of Edith Piaf and won the hearts of millions of people for decades with his love songs, died at age 94, his spokesman said Monday.
The last giant of the French song of the twentieth century died during the night in his house in the village of Mouries, north of the French port city of Marseille.
The musician was born on May 22, 1924 in Paris as Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in an Armenian family. The best-known French singer abroad sold more than 100 million albums in 80 countries, over eight decades of his exceptional career which he had not put an end to.
Aznavour had just returned from a tour of Japan, having been forced to cancel several concerts this summer (boreal) due to a broken arm, caused by a fall. He planned to perform on October 26 in Brussels.
Nicknamed Frank Sinatra of France, he achieved worldwide fame despite an unusual voice and physique. ‘La Bohème’, ‘La Mamma’ and ‘Emmenez-moi’ are among its most outstanding songs of a repertoire of marked nostalgic tone.
He also composed for artists like Edith Piaf and as an actor, he participated in some 80 films.
Aznavour had a particular voice that managed to evoke the aspirations and fears of timid, vulnerable and perplexed people, like him.
He began his career in small bars in Paris in the 40s and 50s, as did, among others, Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Trenet.
His ability to achieve great intimacy with the public also led him to be an acclaimed actor in films such as ‘Tirez Sur le Pianiste’, by Francois Truffaut. In 1997 he was also awarded an honorary César Award, the most important film honor in France.
The young Aznavour grew up among artists, singers and actors in the Rive Gauche of Paris, and began acting at the age of nine.
His father was a singer who also worked as a cook and his mother was an actress. Charles’s first public performances were at Armenian dances, where his father and older sister, Aida, sang and Charles danced.
He discovered his talent for writing songs for his performances with Pierre Roche, who played the piano while Aznavour sang. After the Second World War, Piaf saw the duo’s performance and took them with her on a tour of the United States and Canada.
After living in the shadow of stars like Piaf and Juliette Greco, for whom he wrote several hits, his career finally took off with gold albums and world tours.
Despite measuring only 1.60 meters, Aznavour had a magnetic presence on the stage that left the public absorbed at his feet in places as famous as the Olympia in Paris or the Carnegie Hall in New York.
His admirers praised Aznavour mainly for his ability to tell stories in a song and a jovial voice that, while not considered beautiful, was rich in sensitivity and scope.
“I have the kind of voice that fits the kind of songs I write,” Aznavour wrote in his autobiography “Aznavour by Aznavour.” (I)