Charles Aznavour, French Armenian singer-songwriter, Dies on 94 – Variety

The French-Armenian singer-songwriter-actor Charles Aznavour, best known for songs like "She", "Yesterday When I Was Young" and "For Mama," died. Aznavour, who was 94, died of a heart attack in his home in Mouries, southern France, according to his agent.

Aznavour sold more than 180 million records and appeared in more than 60 films. Bob Dylan considered Aznavour, also called a Gallic Frank Sinatra, as & # 39; one of the greatest live artists & # 39; he had ever seen. CNN called him entertainer of the century in 1998 and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Monday: "Charles Aznavour was deeply French, deeply rooted in his Armenian roots and known throughout the world, accompanied by the joys and pains of three generations, his masterpieces, the tone of his voice, his unique radiance will survive for a long time. & # 39;

Aznavour, who still played in full stadiums almost until the end of his life, started his career when he was 9 years old as an actor in Paris. One of those who helped him reach a global audience was Edith Piaf, who took him with her during a journey through France and the United States, 71 years ago. For eight years he was part of Piaf's entourage and wrote several songs for her.

Piaf, whom he described as "intelligent, instinctive, very funny …[with] a bad sense of humor, "taught him" to love and respect your audience, "he said Variety last year. "To be loved by the public you have to be honest, do not cheat, you have to give everything, without trying to fool them or short them."

He saw his audience as confidants. "I take them on a trip for almost two hours, I tell them different stories in songs," he said. "Sometimes new songs, with difficult or unexpected subjects, can surprise or even shock them, but that's it [part of] the relationship I have created with my audience over the years. & # 39;

Aznavour's sincerity about relationships and emotions, his willingness to address the non-glamorous aspects of ordinary life and to look at the lives of minority communities helped him to stand out. It was a quality that Piaf addressed, he said. "What she liked about my writing was the fact that I was different, that it was a new way of writing, that I expressed myself differently, and at that time it was very unusual, and sometimes she always said: & # 39; You are going too far. & # 39; "

In 1972 he released a song about the life of a homosexual man, "Comme ils disent," entitled "What Makes a Man a Man" in English. His result had tried to dissuade him, claiming that it could endanger his career because of the prevailing climate of homophobia, but he went on anyway.

Aznavour's approach to songwriting came from a natural curiosity about people. "I have always been interested in observing human behavior," he said. He tried to emulate the freedom that painters, sculptors and writers had. They could [depict] characters, landscapes and nudes without being flat, and that is what I tried to achieve with my songwriting: total freedom to tackle every subject, if necessary to use a word. "

It was Aznavour's collaborations with South African-born British textwriter Herbert Kretzmer who helped him enter the English-speaking market with songs like "Yesterday, When I Was Young" and "She." It also helped Kretzmer's career: Cameron Mackintosh's admiration for those two songs led him to ask Kretzmer to write the text for "Les Miserables", which earned him a Tony and a Grammy.

Many Aznavour songs are covered by other singers, such as Roy Clark with "Yesterday, When I Was Young," Ray Charles with "For Mama & # 39 ;, Dylan with" The Times We & # 39; ve Known & # 39 ;, Minnelli with & # 39; What Makes a Man & # 39; a Man, "and Elvis Costello with" She ", for the soundtrack of the Julia Roberts film" Notting Hill. "Aznavour sang duets with many singers, including Sting on" Love Is New Everyday ", Celine Dion on" Toi et Moi "and Sinatra on" You Make Me Feel So Young. "

Aznavour not only performed as a singer and songwriter, but also performed in more than 90 films and TV dramas, including the groundbreaking "Shoot the Piano Player" by Volker Schlondorff, the Oscar-winning film in foreign languages ​​" The Tin Drum "and Atom Egoyan" s "Ararat". . "Even the legendary French poet-artist-filmmaker Jean Cocteau was a fan and threw him in his 1959 film" Testament of Orpheus ".

Speak with Variety Last year, Frederic Boyer, artistic director of the Tribeca Film Festival, praised Aznavour's skill as an actor, regretting that he no longer had leading roles in films of the caliber of Truffaut's film. "He was a super talented actor," Boyer said. The Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques of France was the same and in 1997 Aznavour faded with an honorary Cesar.

The theater ship Aznavour was sweetened from an early age. He was born on 22 May 1924 in Shanoun Varenagh Aznavourian in Paris, to Armenian parents who had fled to the French capital. Both parents were actors and they performed songwriting and singing. "I learned every aspect of theater: dancing, acting, mimes," he said Variety. "I use to write music based on classical sonnets written by Corneille or Racine, because I felt that this would give me the freedom and the tools to tell the stories in my songs and make them credible."

Singing could, according to him, be a form of telling. "I think I became one of the first singer-songwriters to write songs as small plays or films and have played them on stage," he said.

His method of performing was to get the characters he had created in his songs the way that an actor would, in their minds. "I become the hero of all of my songs," he said.

Aznavour also earned praise for his humanitarian work. In 1989 he gathered more than 80 friends from the showbiz, including Minnelli and Dionne Warwick, to "For You, Armenia & # 39; to collect money for the victims of the Armenian earthquake on 7 December 1988.

He continued to raise funds for Armenia and set up the Aznavour Foundation to "help Armenians around the world so that they in turn help Armenia to become an independent country," he said. He served as ambassador of Armenia in Switzerland, and his representative at UNESCO in Paris.

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