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Beloved French chanson entertainer Charles Aznavour, who wrote more than 800 songs, recorded more than 1,000 of them in French, English, German and Spanish and sold over 100 million records in all, was born Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian on May 22, 1924, in Paris, the younger of two children born to Armenian immigrants who fled to France following the Turkish massacre. His mother was a seamstress as well as an actress and his father was a baritone who sang in restaurants. Both Charles and his sister waited on tables where he performed. He delivered his first poetic recital while just a toddler. Within a few years later he had developed such a passion for singing/dancing, that he sold newspapers to earn money for lessons.
He took his first theatrical bow in the play "Emil and the Detectives" at age 9 and within a few years was working as a movie extra. He eventually quit school and toured France and Belgium as a boy singer/dancer with a traveling theatrical troupe while living the bohemian lifestyle. A popular performer at the Paris' Club de la Chanson, it was there that he was introduced in 1941 to the songwriter Pierre Roche. Together they developed names for themselves as a singing/writing cabaret and concert duo ("Roche and Aznamour"). A Parisian favorite, they became developed successful tours outside of France, including Canada. In the post WWII years Charles began appearing in films again, one of them as a singing croupier in Adieu chérie (1946).
Eventually Aznavour earned a sturdy reputation composing street-styled songs for other established musicians and singers, notably Édith Piaf, for whom he wrote the French version of the American hit "Jezebel". Heavily encouraged by her, he toured with her as both an opening act and lighting man. He lived with Piaf out of need for a time not as one of her many paramours. His mentor eventually persuaded him to perform solo (sans Roche) and he made several successful tours while scoring breakaway hits with the somber chanson songs "Sur ma vie" and "Parce que" and the notable and controversial "Après l'amour." In 1950, he gave the bittersweet song "Je Hais Les Dimanches" ["I Hate Sundays"] to chanteuse Juliette Gréco, which became a huge hit for her.
In the late 50s, Aznavour began to infiltrate films with more relish. Short and stubby in stature and excessively brash and brooding in nature, he was hardly leading man material but embraced his shortcomings nevertheless. Unwilling to let these faults deter him, he made a strong impressions with the comedy Une gosse sensass' (1957) and with Paris Music Hall (1957). He was also deeply affecting as the benevolent but despondent and ill-fated mental patient Heurtevent in Tête contre les murs, La (1959). A year later, Aznavour starred as piano player Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan in 'Francois Truffaut''s adaptation of the David Goodis' novel Tirez sur le pianiste (1960) [Shoot the Piano Player], which earned box-office kudos both in France and the United States. This sudden notoriety sparked an extensive tour abroad in the 1960s. Dubbed the "Frank Sinatra of France" and singing in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese), his touring would include sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall (1964) and London's Albert Hall (1967).
Aznavour served as actor and composer/music arranger for many films, including Gosse de Paris (1961), which he also co-wrote with director Marcel Martin, and the dramas Quatre vérités, Les (1962) [Three Fables of Love") and Caroline chérie (1968) [Dear Caroline]. The actor also embraced the title role in the TV series "Les Fables de la Fontaine" (1964), then starred in the popular musical "Monsieur Carnaval" (1965), in which he performed his hit song "La bohême."
His continental star continued to shine and Aznavour acted in films outside of France with more dubious results. While the sexy satire Candy (1968), with an international cast that included Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Ringo Starr, and epic adventure The Adventurers (1970) were considered huge misfires upon release, it still showed Aznavour off as a world-wide attraction. While he was also seen in the English drama _Games, The (1970), _Blockhouse, The (1973) and an umpteenth film version of Agatha Christie's Ein Unbekannter rechnet ab (1974) [And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians], it was his music that kept him in the international limelight. Later films included Yiddish Connection (1986), which he co-wrote and provided music, and Maestro, Il (1989) with Malcolm McDowell; more recently he received kudos for his participation in the Canadian-French production Ararat (2002).
Films aside, hus chart-busting single "She" (1972-1974) went platinum in Britain. He also received thirty-seven gold albums in all. His most popular song in America, "Yesterday When I Was Young" has had renditions covered by everyone from Shirley Bassey to Julio Iglesias. In 1997, Aznavour received an honorary César Award. He has written three books, the memoirs "Aznavour By Aznavour" (1972), the song lyrics collection "Des mots à l'affiche" (1991) and a second memoir "Le temps des avants" (2003). A "Farewell Tour" was instigated in 2006 at age 82 and, health permitting, could last to 2010.
Married at least three times (some claim five) to Micheline Rugel, Evelyne Plessis and Ulla Thorsell, he is the father of six children (daughters Katia, Patricia and Seda Aznavour, and sons Misha, Nicholas and Patrick Aznavour).
|Ulla Thorsell||(11 January 1967 - present) 3 children|
|Evelyne Plessis||(1955 - 1960) (divorced) 1 child|
|Micheline Rugel||(1946 - ?) (divorced) 2 children|
French singer/actor, a.k.a. Charles Aznavurian.
Married five times.
He is an Armenian-French singer-composer born in Paris but very popular among the French culture especially in Quebec.
Worked with François Truffaut who petitioned for the release of Sergei Parajanov from the Soviet prisons; Aznavour also worked with Atom Egoyan, whose 2nd favourite film is Sergei Parajanov's Sayat Nova (1968) while Mikhail Vartanov, the best friend of Sergei Parajanov, regards Sayat Nova (1968) as his most favourite picture and Charles Aznavour as his most favourite singer.
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986.
Partly inspired the character Char Aznable from the 1979 anime "Kidô senshi Gandamu" (1979) (English name "Mobile Suit Gundam").
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 2006, 82-year old Aznavour traveled to Cuba, where he, together with Chucho Valdes, recorded his new album "Color Ma Vie,"presented at Aznavour's Moscow concert in April 2007.
At the start of autumn in 2006, Aznavour initiated his farewell tour, performing in the US and Canada, and earning very positive reviews. For 2007, Aznavour has concerts scheduled all over Japan and Asia. The second half of 2007 sees Aznavour returning to Paris for over 20 shows at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. He has repeatedly stated that this farewell tour, health permitting, will likely last beyond 2010.
At age 75 years old, he continued to act in movies, writes songs and record. One album was entitled "Jazznavour," which featured new versions of his old classics recorded with a group of American jazz musicians.
Known for his "faits de societe" songs which dramatizes social issues. He has written songs about everything from AIDS and traffic accidents to divorce and weight problems.
At the age of 9, he heard boulevardier's Maurice Chevalier's "Donnez Moi La Main Mamz'elle Et Ne Dites Rien" and found his calling as a chansonnier.
Of Armenian descent, the performer founded the relief organization "Aznavour for Armenia" following the 1988 earthquake in his homeland.
In 1998, Aznavour was chosen "Entertainer of the Century" by CNN and users of Time Online from around the globe. Aznavour was recognized as the century's outstanding performer, with nearly 18% of the total vote, edging out Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra.
Through the beauty and magic of video technology, Aznavour performs with a ghostly Édith Piaf, a la Nat King Cole and daughter Natalie, the song "Plus bleu que tes yeux.".
On July 5th, 2008 was invested as an honorary officer of the Order of Canada. The honorary status is a special designation reserved for non-Canadians.
Live now. Tomorrow, who knows?
The public and the critics ... sensed my passionate devotion to my profession. My love of the chanson towered above my other loves.
My shortcomings are my voice, my height, my gestures, my lack of culture and education, my frankness and my lack of personality. -- CA, in 1950
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