Perhaps France’s greatest ever singer-songwriter
Charles Aznavour sang of love, but also of nostalgia and the tragedy of lost youth. Here we revisit a musical master.
Born to a French-Armenian family in Paris in 1924, Charles Aznavour enjoyed a career spanning 70 years, from being the warm-up act for Édith Piaf at the Moulin Rouge to his final concert in September 2018, just two weeks before he died, at the ripe old age of 94. Aznavour’s English-language version of ‘Les Plaisirs Demodés’ (‘the Old-Fashioned Way‘) was a hit in Britain in 1973, and he followed that up in 1974 with ‘She’, written in English but also recorded in French – and in German, Italian and Spanish, no less. ‘She’ was a UK No. 1 for four weeks and led to several television appearances on Saturday-night variety shows.
By the end of that year, everyone in Britain knew who Charles Aznavour was – even if they had never heard of Johnny Hallyday! During WWII, his family hid people in their flat to protect them from the Nazis, and throughout his life he was politically active. In the 1970s he was an early supporter of homosexual rights; in 1988 he set up a charity to help victims of the Armenian earthquake; and in the 2000s he was again vocal – literally – in his opposition to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front. A true pioneer.
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From France Today Magazine