Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

AZNAVOUR, Charles

(b Shahnour Aznavurjan, 22 May '24, Paris, France) Singer, songwriter, actor. Family had fled Turkish massacre of Armenians '15; mother actress, father musician; operated restaurant but remained poor. First audition at age nine: landed part of Caucasian soldier in play. Restaurant closed following German occupation of Paris; began acting on tour. Voice at the time such that 'I became the best newspaper-caller on the Boulevards'. Teamed with actor Pierre Roche by nervous announcer, who introduced them as double act; they began writing songs during nine-year partnership. First hit 'J'ai Bu' ('I Have Drunk') performed by George Ulmer, followed by flood of songs recorded by Mistinguette, Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf, etc. Went to USA '48 without visa; 'We owed our entry permit to the Judge's love of Finian's Rainbow' (which Aznavour had translated into French). Appeared at Cafe Society NYC, 40 weeks in Canada; Aznavour since toured North America several times. Went solo '50, encouraged by Piaf, others to interpret own songs; resumed acting, which had brought little work because 'I was too small, too ugly'. He long refused film offers, but small part in La Tˆte Contre les Murs '58 won Crystal award from French film academy; then in Shoot The Pianist '60, Passage du Rhine '61. Single 'La Mama' '63 no. 1 for twelve weeks in France; Matt Monro cover was no. 36 UK '64. More films: Cloportes '65, Candy '68, The Adventurers, The Games, Un Beau Monstre all c'70. First UK hit 'The Old Fashioned Way' '73; no. 1 UK with 'She' '75, written for TV series The Seven Faces Of Woman. Films And Then There Were None '75, Sky Riders '76, etc. Among other songs: 'Yesterday When I Was Young', 'All Those Pretty Girls', 'Le Temps'. Warmth and angst in onstage performance called epitome of French romance; sings in both French and English ('Venice Blue' translated/adapted by Gene Lees). LPs incl. A Tapestry Of Dreams, Charles Aznavour 1965, Son Pass‚ au Pr‚sent, three vols of Sings Aznavour, all on French Barclay label. Autobiography Aznavour par Aznavour Paris '70.