Charles Aznavour: biography
Charles Aznavour is a famous singer, a cult figure of the French chanson, a composer and an actor. He composed 1300 songs, and 200 million copies of the discs have been sold all over the world. By the results of the poll of 1998 of Time magazine's readers and CNN viewers, the singer occupied the first position of the rate of the best singers of the XX century.
Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian is a real name of the French chansonnier of the Armenian origin. He became world famous under the name of Charles Aznavour. He was born in Paris in May of 1924 in the family of Georgian and Armenian people who came from Georgia. His father came from the town of Akhaltsikhe situated near Tbilisi. His mother was born in the Armenian family, and they were living in Turkey.
In 1920-s Aznavour the married couple left Russia. The U.S. was their final destination. But in Paris, the spouses had to stay for some time to get the visa. The couple liked France so much that they decided to stay here. Soon their son Shahnour Vaghinag was born in the family. He became the second child in the family. His sister Aida was already growing up at the spouses.
The future singer, composer, and actor was growing in the creative ambient. Both of his parents were artists. His mother acted on the stage of several Parisian theaters, and his father sang in the operettas. Already at the age of five Charles Aznavour had his debut on the stage. He was playing the violin. Three-four years later the boy performed the Russian dances on the stage and even sang in the cappella of one of the churches.
Charles' family was leading quite a modest way of life. The art brought satisfaction to the soul but didn't bring any profit. That's why the family of Aznavour owned a small Armenian restaurant where all their family was working. Quite often the father and his son were singing for the visitors of the restaurant. But they had to close the restaurant because of the crisis which happened in the late thirties.
At the early age, Charles Aznavour became aware of the fact that his future would probably be connected with the art. That's why he studied at the drama school. To help his parents to pay the living, the boy took part in the mass meetings and performed the bit roles at first in the theatre and later in the movies. At the stage "the little Armenian" as his friends called him, he presented the part of young Henry IV. And at the age of twelve, Aznavour appeared in the episodes of a couple of movies.
The 1940-s can be considered the starting point of the creative career of Charles Aznavour. During that period, he got acquainted with his colleague Pierre Roche. As well as Charles, Pierre appeared to be a young composer and a musician – he was playing the piano. Their duet was called "Roche and Aznavour." Together they performed in the clubs in France and Belgium. Roche was singing more often, and not everyone liked Aznavour's voice. Sometimes it happened that Charles was booed. That’s why he was composing music and lyrics for the songs which his partner was performing.
In 1946 the famous Édith Piaf paid attention to the duet of talented, but little-known musicians.
The celebrity invited the duet to go with her on tour to the U.S. After this tour people began to recognize Charles Aznavour and his friend.
In the early fifties, he was more known not as a chansonnier, but as a songwriter and composer. Aznavour composed the songs for a great number of well-known performers as Patachou, Mistinkvet, and Greco. He composed the hit under the title Jezebel for Édith Piaf. It is a remake of the same-name American song. In a short time, this song became a real chartbuster in the presentation of Édith Piaf.
In the mid-fifties "the little Armenian" and the true Parisian have chosen the suitable repertoire and have set off for the tour in North America. In such a way Charles Aznavour began his career as a chansonnier. After they had returned from the tour, they concluded the contract with the most famous French concert halls "Olympia" and "Alhambra." Critics have met the singer with restraint, and ordinary Frenchmen were enchanted by this attractive, though not ideal voice. Charles’ songs started to become bus charters. Three years later each performance of the famous chansonnier turned into the real event. The tickets for his concerts were always sold-out.
In 1960 the legendary American Carnegie Hall opened its doors in front of the singer and composer. The performance of the star of the French chanson was extremely successful. Then even the critics appreciated his talent. The following hits "Emmenez-moi," "Trop tard," "Les comediens," "J'me voyais deja" appeared in the singer’s repertoire. Paul Mauriat began to work on the orchestration of the chansonnier’s songs. The maestro composed the popular melodies for the orchestra, with what he popularized Aznavour's creative work even more.
After the long-lasting tour in America, Europe, and Asia Charles Aznavour became the world-famous star. His discs were sold in millions of copies. His chartbusters "Sur Ma Vie," "Sa Jeunesse" "Parce Que," "Après L'Amour" were sung by the public on all the continents. The song of Charles Aznavour "Une vie d'amour" was especially popular. Later, Mireille Mathieu performed this song.
In 1971 there was released the movie picture To Die of Love for which the musician composed and sang the same-name composition.
This song instantly became the national hit. And the movie received the Golden Lion award and became extremely popular in many ways due to this song.
In 1977 Charles Aznavour presented to his fans the new hit under the title "Camarade" ("Companion"). The composition was at the top of the charts for a long time. This song and some other old and fresh hits of the chansonnier were included to Aznavour's album "Ça passe," which was released a year later.
In the new millennium, Aznavour took part in the record of the joint album "Color Ma Vie" with the Cuban Chucho Valdes. This album came out in 2007. In 2008 Charles Aznavour performed the hit of 1964 "Hier Encore" together with Elton John. In 2013 the song "You and I" from the same-name album of 1995 was recorded in a duet with the Russian singer Polina Gagarina. The Frenchman visited Russia with great pleasure, and from time to time delighted his fans with the solo concerts which always had a full house.
In 2014 there was released the video for Aznavour’s song "La Bohème" which had been composed in 70-s.
Charles Aznavour’s cinematic career was a separate chapter of his life. He inherited acting skills from his mother. The actor performed his first remarkable roles in the movies Ladies' Man and Head Against the Wall. And in 1960-s when the movie Shoot the Piano Player came out the chansonniers was invited to sing in Carnegie Hall.
In 1963 the actor performed the major role in the melodrama Paris in August. And in half a year the spectators saw the wonderful music comedy "Monsieur Carnaval" " in which there sounded the hit "La Bohème" from the chansonnier.
For his long creative career, the artist performed in sixty pictures. He cooperated with such famous directors as Claude Lelouch, Claude Chabrol, Jean Cocteau, and René Cler. Other best movies featuring the actor, except the above-mentioned, are the following: Testament of Orpheus, The Tin Drum, Le passage du Rhin, Un taxi pour Tobrouk, The Devil and the Ten Commandments, Time of the Wolf, Long Live Freedom, and The Chinese.
The composition of Charles Aznavour and Georges Garvarentz "Une vie d'amour" can also be heard in the famous Soviet political detective story Tehran-43 which came out in 1981.
The picture Père Goriot became the latest work in the filmography of the talented Frenchman of the Armenian origin. Aznavour performed the leading role in this movie.
The legendary chansonnier had three official marriages. For the first time, he married at the age of twenty-one. His wife Micheline Rugel was seventeen at that time. Later the actor would call this marriage the mistake of youth, as well as the second one.
In the marriage with Micheline, their daughter Séda was born. But five years later the couple divorced. The father kept warm relations with his daughter.
The story with the birth of Charles's son is somewhat mysterious. He was also born in the union with Micheline. But the chansonnier didn't comment on the birth of Charles Aznavour Jr. for some reasons. Neither did the members of his family.
The second marriage with Evelyn Plessis turned out to be even shorter than the first one. They had no children in this marriage, and this became the reason for the divorce.
Between his second and third marriages, Aznavour had a short love affair. Soon after the separation, the woman confessed that she was expecting a baby. After the birth of her son Patrick, she got married. A couple of years later the marriage broke up, and Charles took Patrick to his family by the agreement with his father. At that time Aznavour was married to his third wife – the Sweden Ulla Thorsell. They registered their relations in 1967. Three children were born in this family – the daughter Katia and sons Mischa, and Nicolas.
Patrick was growing together with his half-sister and half-brothers. When Patrick became independent, his father bought him an apartment. The 25-year old guy was found dead in this flat. Beer and spilled pills were found near the body. There was no information, whether it was a suicide or overdose with medicine.
Personal life of Charles Aznavour with his third spouse Ulla turned out to be happy. The couple had lived together for more than half a century. At present Charles’ widow lives in the small house on the bank of the lake in Switzerland. The destiny of Aznavour’s children appeared to be different. Séda was a singer in the past and at present lives in California. Nicolas is a scientist-neurologist, who has settled in France. Mischa, a writer, and musician has lived Russia for some time but later has come back to Paris. The youngest daughter Katia has followed in her father's footsteps. As well as her elder sister and brother, she began to have an interest in the music. Later, Katia got married to the Algerian man.
In one of the interviews, Charles Aznavour admitted that he didn’t consider Armenia the country where he could live. But the artist never forgot about his native country. The singer became the songwriter of the compositions devoted to Armenia - "They fell," "Autobiography," "Jan" and "Gentle Armenia." In 1988, after the earthquake in Spitak, Aznavour took the initiative and created the charity organization "Aznavour for Armenia." This fund collected money for the victims.
A year later the actor created the video for the musical composition "For you, Armenia" in which participated 90 singers and actors. The circulation of the single reached 1 million copies. In 2001 the chansonnier stood for the decision of the French parliament to consider the genocide of the Armenian people. A year later there came out the movie Ararat directed by Atom Egoyan. This movie highlighted the burning topic. Charles Aznavour performed the role of the main character Edward Saroyan in this movie.
In the UNESCO Charles became the honorary ambassador of the republic, and in Yerevan, the square was called in honor of him. In 2008 Charles Aznavour received the Armenian citizenship.
During the change of the government in April of 2018 Charles Aznavour supported the nation. The message to the nation appeared on the official website of the actor’s charity foundation. In this message maestro called people for the refraining from the violence and conservation of the democratic values.
Last years and death
In 2017 Charles Aznavour received The Wallenberg Medal for his contribution and helped to the Jewish people during World War II. The French singer received the Badge of Honor in the presidential residence in Jerusalem from the hands of Reuven Rivlin. The same year the singer received his star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Charles Aznavour continued his concert activities during his last years but not as active as before. In April of 2018, there was planned the chansonnier’s concert in St. Petersburg, but the performance was canceled because of the actor’s health problems. Aznavour was taken to one of St. Petersburg hospitals from the rehearsal. The singer promised to come back to Russia next year.
On the 1st of October of 2018, Charles Aznavour died on the 95th year of his life. The eminent musician died in his house in the south of France.
- 1953 – Jézébel
- 1962 – Il faut savoir
- 1963 – La mamma
- 1965 – Hier encore
- 1974 – Visages de l'amour
- 1990 – The old fashioned way
- 1990 – She
- 1994 – Toi et moi
- 1995 – You and me
- 1997 – Plus bleu
- 2003 – Je voyage
- 2005 – Insolitement vôtre
- 1958 — Head Against the Wall
- 1960 — Shoot the Piano Player
- 1960 — Le passage du Rhin
- 1960 — Un taxi pour Tobrouk
- 1976 — Sky Riders
- 1982 — Der Zauberberg
- 1983 — Édith et Marcel
- 1989-92 — Le chinois
- 2002 — Ararat
- 2004 — Le Père Goriot