Composer Charles Aznavour: a centenary of the chansonnier.

In anticipation of the centenary of Charles Aznavour’s birth, STYLE has prepared a series of materials dedicated to the life and work of the famous chansonnier. In today’s feature, we share interesting facts from Aznavour’s biography, as well as his musical journey.

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Shahnour Vaghinak Aznavuryan was born on May 22, 1924, in the French capital to a family of Armenian immigrants. Charles’s father was a operetta artist, and his mother was a journalist who interviewed him. This marked the beginning of the love story between Charles’s parents — Mamikon and Knar.

The family owned a small café in Paris, frequented by Russian emigrants. This is where Charles quickly began to learn Russian.

By the age of 5, Charles could play the violin and gave small performances in the family restaurant. These were the first steps towards the boy’s future musical career, which continued at the drama school where his parents enrolled him.

At the age of 12, Charles received his first invitation to the cinema, but soon World War II began, altering the family’s plans. The Aznavours were bankrupted, and his father went to the front. The war forced the boy to grow up too quickly, and at the age of 15, Charles traveled with a theater troupe to perform plays in the provinces, as well as performing his musical compositions in bars and cafes.

The Aznavour family supported the anti-fascist resistance and helped Jews fleeing the Nazis by hiding them in their home.

When the war ended, Charles was able to dedicate all his time to music again. Once, the presenter mistakenly announced Charles together with the pianist Pierre Roche, but both remained composed and performed on stage as a duo.

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Soon, Charles had a meeting with Edith Piaf, who, charmed by him, organized international tours for him. For 8 years, Charles composed songs for Piaf and also served as her impresario.

In 1950, at the age of 26, Aznavour began his solo career, but his initial performances were met with failure. Around the same time, Charles changed his surname to Aznavour and continued his solo career.

Aznavour was characterized by a bold and determined temperament that did not allow him to give up after facing difficulties. Already in 1954, Aznavour went on tour to the United States. He was warmly received by the American audience, and he became known to the general public. This period marked the beginning of Aznavour’s successful career.

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In 1956, in the famous Olympia hall in Paris, Aznavour performed three times a day.

In the 1960s, Aznavour traveled to the Soviet Yerevan for a concert. Later, the chansonnier would describe in his autobiography how he was overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth in his homeland.

In 1973, Charles released the song «What Makes a Man,» which tells the story of a transvestite. Despite the provocative topic for that time, the song gained wide recognition and popularity.

Aznavour’s songs were performed by musicians such as Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli, Ray Charles, and many others. Charles himself performed duets with many legendary musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Patricia Kaas, Celine Dion, and Luciano Pavarotti.

In 2006, Charles traveled to Cuba, where he wrote his new album.

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Aznavour owns more than a thousand musical compositions and songs. Throughout his career, the singer sold over 200 million copies of his records and performed more than a thousand concerts in 94 countries around the world.

In his homeland, Aznavour’s iconic songs include «La Bohème,» «Une vie d’amour,» «She,» «Hier encore,» and many others. The song «Ils Sont Tombes,» written for the 60th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, holds great significance for Charles’s compatriots.

Charles Aznavour deeply loved his audience and often confessed that he would like to perform on stage until the age of 100. He didn’t manage to fulfill this dream, but the singer dedicated almost 85 years of his life to the stage.

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