Charles Aznavour is a French and Armenian singer-songwriter and is one of France’s most popular performers. However, his real name is Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian. So he was born on May 22 in 1924, in Paris. His parents were an Armenian immigrants Michael Aznavourian and Knar Baghdasarian. He has many awards and honors, but the important one for him is to be awarded as a National Hero of Armenia.
Everyone knows and loves Charles Aznavour in Armenia. At the age of 92, he still writes music, sings and also tours.
Aznavour is lived his life to the fullest. There has been rises and falls, happiness and also the tragedy. All of this inspired him to tell his life, his emotions and also feelings through the music he created during his whole life.
His father was born in Georgia. He was a hard worker, but he was more gifted in music than in running a business. So is mother came from a family of Armenian tradesmen who was based in Turkey. She had a degree in literature but had to take temporary jobs as a seamstress. He grew up surrounded by so much love but with little means. His parents were always happy and positive.
His father opened a small Armenian restaurant in Paris. So every evening he would perform to audience of Central European exiles nostalgic for their homeland, while his wife attended to the guests. Charles and his elder sister, Aida, thus grew up in the magical atmosphere on the restaurant, which became a favorite haunt for musicians and actors from the local theaters. But in 1929 they abandon this restaurant.
So his parents ensured that Charles received music and dance lessons as a child. And also introduced him to the stage at a young age. So he started singing and performing in the nightclubs as a teenager. His first appearance was at the age of nine in the play Emil and the Detectives, based on 1929. After that, he worked as an extra in various films. And also he appeared in plays at the performing school for boys that he attended.
In the early 1940’s, he met pianist Pierre Roche with whom he performed together.
They also began writing songs and also composing music and found some success in the late 1940’s. Firstly he would write the lyrics and then he would compose the melody, to which Roche would add the harmonies.
Aznavour showed his interest and talent in music since he was a child, but his career rise wasn’t until Edith Piaf discovered him in 1946. At first, he worked as an assistant to Piaf, later she helped him to launch his own career. So she recognized a great talent in Aznavour. And also she took the singer and pianist on a tour throughout France as her opening act.
He wrote several songs for her and so became her manager. From this collaboration grew a very strong friendship. She invited them to tour the USA between 1947 and 1948. Pierre and Charles settled down for some time in Quebec.
Their duet with Pierre worked well, so they recorded their first six records in Quebec. They had done over 40 weeks of concerts at the “Faisan Dore” at a rate of 11 shows a week and they slowly became local celebrities.
So he sang along the biggest stars of the century in many concerts. He sang with Edith Piaf, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Dalida, Serge Gainsbourg, Josh Groban, Petula Clark, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Jose Carreras, Laura Pausini, Nana Mouskouri, Julio Iglesias and also other singers.
He said about his relationship with Liza Minnelli, Aznavour once said: “We’re a little bit more friends and a little bit less than lovers.”
Charles Aznavour has been married three times. Firstly he married to Micheline Rugel in 1946. But this marriage did not last long and ended in divorce. The second time he married to Evelyn Plessis in 1956. But this marriage also ended in divorce. So his third wife was Swedish-born Ulla Thorsell. In spite of that, it was his third wedding, the couple would hold a traditional religious wedding at the Armenian Church in Paris when they returned to France the following year. So he is the father of six children from three marriages: Seda, Charles, Patrick, Katia, Mischa and Nicolas.
Charles as a patriot
There is so much that Aznavour did for Armenia and Armenian people. For example, he helped people after the tragic Spitak earthquake in 1988. Right after the earthquake, Charles Aznavour wrote a song called “Pour toi Arménie” (translated as “For you, Armenia”). On this occasion, he gathered all the top singers in France and recorded the song. So the song hit the charts and stayed there for eighteen weeks. And also all the money was given to the charity for helping those, who suffered because of the earthquake.People of Gyumri were so grateful to Aznavour, that they placed his statue in the city center.
Songs by Charles Aznavour
So he wrote the song for British TV series, called “Seven Faces of Woman”. He released it in 1974. Later Aznavour recorded the song in French, Italian, German, Spanish. Should be said, this song is one of the most covered songs of all time. Elvis Priestly, Laura Pausini and also other artists performed this song.
So “La Bohème” is Aznavour’s signature song. It was recorded in 1965 and also topped N1 in charts, shortly after the release. Because Aznavour translated the song into English, German, Spanish and Italian. As many others of his songs, this one has also been coved by many famous and popular singers.
“Hier Encore” in English means “Only Yesterday”. He released the song in 1964. So he translated “Hier Encore” into Japanese, Spanish, Italian, English languages. In spite of that, the most famous translated version of the song is the English one, it’s called “Yesterday when I was young”. Elton John, Julio Iglesias, Patricia Kaas and also other artists have performed this song.
Une Vie D’Amour
Aznavour wrote this song along with Georges Garvarentz. So it has been sung as a duet with Mireille Mathieu. He wrote this song for the movie “Tehran 43” in 1981. Young peoples and also adults love and sing this song. He also translated this song into Russian and Chinese.
Je me voyais déjà
“Je me voyais déjà” in English means “I could already see myself”. So this is the first song in the self-titled album, which he released in 1961. That is why it is the launch of his career.
- Grand Prix Award for Best Italian Song- 1960;
- Edison Awards- 1963, 1971 and 1980;
- Golden Lion Honorary Award at the Venice Film Festival for the Italian version of the song Mourir d’aimer- 1971;
- Ambassador of Goodwill and Permanent Delegate of Armenia to UNESCO- 1995;
- Induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame- 1996;
- Officer of the Legion of Honor- 1997;
- French Victorie award for Male artist of the year- 1997;
- National Hero of Armenia- 2004;
- Honorary prize at 30th Cairo Film Festival- 2006;
- Citizenship of the Republic of Armenia- 2008;
- Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada- 2008;
- Grigor Lusavorich award of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic- 2009;
- Commander in the Belgian Order of the Crown- 2015;
- Honorary Hollywood Star plaque from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce– 2016.