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Charles Aznavour: The legendary French singer and actor dies at the age of 94

Lori Hinnant, The Associated Press

Published on Monday, October 1, 2018 8:25 am EDT

Last Updated on Monday, 1 October 2018 6:53 AM EDT

PARIS – Career career of Charles Aznavour lasted eight decades, with a promise in his last years the only concession for age – or difficulty in recalling a repertoire of 1,000 songs.

Known as Frank Sinatra of France, the bitter actor and actor, who started his career as composer and defender of Edith Piaf, died on Monday at 94 years.

Its versatile tenor, luscious text and the presence of the kinetic scene were enjoyed by fans all over the world, but nowhere more than in France. He sang in the concert hall halls in the 1990's and said he wrote every day.

"I throw it more away. You write before, the judge later," he said in an interview for 2015 before the release of the Encores album.

Often compared to Sinatra, Aznavour began his career as a composer for Piaf, but she took it under her arm, encouraging him to sing his material. Like her, her fame eventually came off well outside France, including awarding a star to Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.

"What were my mistakes? My voice, my size, my gestures, lack of culture and education, my honesty or lack of personality," the 1.6-meter high-ranking performer wrote in his autobiography book. "My voice can not change. The teachers I consulted all agreed that I should not sing, but nevertheless continued singing until my throat was hurt."

In his career, Aznavour wrote over 1000 songs for himself, Piaf and other renowned French singers. The ballad of love "She" presided over the British list for four weeks in 1974 and was covered by Elvis Costello for "Notting Hill".

Aznavour sold more than 180 million records, according to his official biography. It exploded an arm in May but was set to start a new tour in November in France, starting in Paris.

Liza Minnelli, who met Aznavour when she was a teenager and was at age 40, described her after him in Paris.

"He really taught me everything I know about singing – how each song is a different movie," she said in an interview for 2013. Both remained closed for decades, often working together. On Monday, she said in a statement: "Charles was my mentor, my friend, my love … I'll lose him forever."

He resisted the description as a nucleus, despite decades of torch songs that are now firmly set in French lexicon.

"I'm a composer who sometimes plays his songs," was his favorite self-depiction.

But it was like an actor who Aznavour came to life, vibrating expression from his thick brow at his fingertips.

"On stage, I do not feel like I'm singing for the audience, I sing for myself and give it to the audience, we share. If this is not shared, that's not good," he said in 2015.

French President Emmanuel Macron honored Aznavour's "masterpieces, sound of voice," and "unique splendor".

"Deeply French, closely related to his Armenian roots, known all over the world, Charles Aznavour will have accompanied the joys and sorrows of the three generations," Macron said in a post posted on Twitter.

Shanoun Varenagh Aznavourian was born in Paris on May 22, 1924, the Armenian parents who fled to Paris in the 1920s and opened a restaurant. His singer's father – whose father was a Chef of Nicaròd II – and the actress's mother exposed him in the early arts and acted on his first appearance when he was 9 years old.

Aznavour, who cut the Armenian inscription from his stage name, decided to go to music but still acted in films throughout his career. His credits include the 1960s "Tirez sur le Pianiste", "Francois Truffaut", "Die Blechtrommel" by Volker Schloendorff and "Ararat" of 2002 by Atom Egoyan.

This latest film was dealt with the massacres of 1915 to 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, an event that has tensed relations between Turkey and Armenia for a century.

Aznavour made an international campaign to take the officially-received killings as genocide. Turkey strongly opposes that the massacre was genocide and insists it was part of the violence during World War I.

Aznavour became a pianist and visited New York after the Second World War with Piaf. There, he played on stage with Minnelli. In 1963, he played in a Carnegie Hall. In addition to the English language "She", other bestselling songs include "La Boheme", "For Me, Formidable" and "La Mamma." Other songs gained their fame, including the seductive "Apres l 'Amour" (After Love), which was banned by French radio in 1965 as an insult to public morality and 1972 "Comme Ils Disent" (As They Say) – a first story of the person of a homosexual grief.

His style changed very little over the decades, his style of sticking to traditional structures, his appealing and smooth melodies with a blistering swelling or lack of imagination, some critics said. But in direct performances, his tiny, slow frame gave birth to a vigor and emotion that made his songs a little more.

If critics would sometimes say that his voice was not at all in charge, they said people went to see one of the greatest singers of the singers.

"We keep going to find this intimate relationship that each of us holds with their songs and what they represent," wrote Caroline Rodgers after a 2014 concerto. "If there are failures, these irrelevant musical flaws are called notes fake, advanced age has this privilege – you just skip ahead of such a monument that still sings after all these years. "

With half an eyeglass, Aznavour never forgot that critics were less polite when he was younger.

"No one dares to say what they said before, then, when they were lying – before or after?" he asked in the 2015 interview.

The singer never forgot his Armenian roots.

He traveled regularly to Armenia after gaining independence from the Soviet Union. He was appointed ambassador of travel for humanitarian action in 1993 by then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian, serving as Armenian ambassador to the UNESCO UNESCO cultural agency and was appointed Armenian ambassador to Switzerland in 2009. He founded Aznavour and Armenia, a non-profit organization after the devastating earthquake that struck Soviet Armenia in 1988.

Aznavour was given the prestigious order of France's national order in 2001, and in 2009, he received the Quebec National Order, the first for the singer.

"I'm not trying to boast, but I have to admit that for an uneducated man of an emigrant I could have done much worse," Aznavour said.

Together with other French celebrities, in April 2002, he urged people to sing the national anthem of France in a campaign to defeat far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, known for his anti-immigrant stance.

"If Le Pen existed (at the time of my parents) I would not have been born in France," Aznavour said at that time.

Aznavour owned the La Boheme restaurant in Aix-en-Provence, in southeastern France. He also published two volumes of memoirs – "Aznavour by Aznavour" in 1973 and "Le Temps des Avants" (The Times Before) in 2003.

For the 80th birthday, Aznavour sang at the Palais des Congres in Paris and then went on a tour of France and Belgium. He celebrated his 90th birthday with a concert in Berlin.

Married three times, Aznavour had six children. He has been survived by his wife for over four decades, Ulla.


Samuel Petrequin contributed to this story.

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