We’ve had the deaths of three profound artists in recent days, each a huge influence over their respective genres. Charles Aznavour was something of a Renaissance man – a singer/songwriter, actor, activist and diplomat. His fame was international and it spanned over 70 years. When he died yesterday at the age of 94, he was widely regarded as the Frank Sinatra of France and his music touched millions of people.
Granted, the name may not ring many bells with you, particularly if you were born well after his prime. But trust me, Charles Aznavour records were in just about every record collection, no matter who you were partial to.
For your information: Charles Aznavour was known for his distinctive tenor voice: clear and ringing in its upper reaches, with gravelly and profound low notes. He recorded more than 1,200 songs interpreted in eight languages. He wrote or co-wrote more than 1,000 songs for himself and others.
Aznavour was one of France’s most popular and enduring singers. He sold 180 million records during his lifetime and was dubbed France’s Frank Sinatra, while music critic Stephen Holden described Aznavour as a “French pop deity”. He was also arguably the most famous Armenian of his time. In 1998, Aznavour was named Entertainer of the Century by CNN and users of Time Online from around the globe. He was recognized as the century’s outstanding performer, with nearly 18% of the total vote, edging out Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
Aznavour sang for presidents, popes and royalty, as well as at humanitarian events. In response to the 1988 Armenian earthquake, he founded the charitable organization Aznavour for Armenia along with his long-time friend impresario Levon Sayan. In 2009, he was appointed ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland, as well as Armenia’s permanent delegate to the United Nations at Geneva. He started his most recent tour in 2014.
On 24 August 2017, Aznavour was awarded the 2,618th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Later that year he and his sister were awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Award for sheltering Jews during World War II. His last concert took place in NHK Hall in Tokyo on 17 September 2018.
If you’re familiar with him or not, here is a concert he performed at the famed Paris Olympia on January 23, 1965 – preserved for posterity by Radio France and rebroadcast earlier today as a tribute.