Musical selection for the 100th birth anniversary of the legendary Charles Aznavour

Charles Aznavour was a popular singer, legend of French chanson, composer, actor and writer. Aznavour wrote about 1300 songs, acted in 60 films and sold more than 200 million discs.

In November 2023, the UNESCO General Assembly decided to include the 100th birth anniversary of Charles Aznavour in the calendar of jubilees of important events and anniversaries of notabilities for 2024-2025. In honour of the chansonnier’s anniversary, part of the Ledoyen Square in the Champs-Élysées gardens will be renamed into the Charles Aznavour Garden; a monument to the singer will be erected on Charles Aznavour Square in Yerevan. In February 2024, France officially launched events to commemorate the centenary of Aznavour.

The native town of Aznavour hometown is Paris. The full name given to the boy at birth is Shahnur Vahinak Aznavuryan. The boy was born in an Armenian family, which before his birth moved to France. The future singer, composer and actor grew up in a creative atmosphere. His both parents were performing artists: his mother performed on the stage of several Parisian theatres, his father sang in operettas

Already at the age of 5, Charles made his stage debut playing the violin. Three or four years later, the boy was performing Russian dances for audiences and singing in the chapel of a church.

The Aznavuryan family ran a small Armenian restaurant, where father and son often performed for visitors. For a while, Charles studied at a children's theatre school. On stage, the "little Armenian", as his friends called him, portrayed the young Henry IV.

On cinema screens Aznavour appeared in episodes of several films when he was 12 years old. During the Second World War, the boy's father volunteered at the front. To feed his family, Charles performed in small Parisian cafes and theatres. From 1942, he performed with Pierre Roche (1919-2001). Pierre was an aspiring composer and musician - he played the piano. The friends formed a duet, which they called "Roche and Aznavour". Together they performed in clubs in France and neighbouring Belgium.

In 1946, the duet came to the attention of Edith Piaf. At that time, being very popular in Europe, she was preparing for a long tour in America. The singer offered Charles and Pierre to go with her. After successful performances in the USA and then in Canada as Piaf's "warming up", the young man began to be recognised. Thus began Charles's career as a chansonnier. Since the 1950s, he began to perform as the author of lyrics and music of songs for famous performers. Then Aznavour decided to carry out his own tours and went on tour to the North America. Since then, the musician was mentioned as a brilliant chansonnier and a prominent performer. After returning from the tour, he signed a contract with the "Alhambra" and "Olympia" — the most famous concert halls in France. The concerts of Aznavour concerts always packed the house, and almost every one of his songs invariably became a hit.

In 1958, Aznavour played in the films “Les Dragueurs” by Jean-Pierre Mocky (1929–2019) and “La tête contre les murs” by Georges Franju (1912–1987), for which he won the Best Actor Award. Legendary film director François Truffaut (1932–1984) approached him in 1960, offering to play in "Shoot the Pianist". The success of this film in the United States opened the doors of the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York for Charles.

The musician performed his songs not only in French, but also in English, Spanish and Italian. In 1964, Aznavour organised his first world tour, which included Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and the USSR, among others, and had been touring ever since. The musician visited Russia on several occasions (most recently in April 2018).

During this period, Charles released his hit songs "Les comediens", "Emmenez-moi", "J'me voyais deja" and "Trop tard". The compositions were orchestrated by the famous arranger Paul Mauriat (1925-2006). Grand master took Aznavour's popular tunes and arranged them for orchestral performance, further helping to popularise the musician's work. The songs of Aznavour were performed by such icons as Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli, Ray Charles.... The chansonnier himself performed with Frank Sinatra, Patricia Kaas and many other iconic stars. His most popular hits are "Eternal Love", "La Bohème", "Mama" and dozens of others.

Charles Aznavour was also recognised as a writer. His first literary experience was his diary of his travels in Spain, then – in 1991 he published a collection of song lyrics and short prose under the title "Word for Poster". In 2003, a book of memoirs, "Time of the Advanced", was published, and in October 2005, a collection of short stories, "Pictures of My Life", was issued. Subsequently, seven more books were released, including an autobiographical novel.

Aznavour was actively involved in charitable actions for various regions of the world, but he considered helping Armenia as his major project. He started this activity after the 1988 earthquake in Spitak. Then the musician founded the "Aznavour for Armenia" charity association and became Armenia's Honorary Ambassador-at-Large for Humanitarian Activities and Permanent Representative of Armenia to UNESCO. After he was granted Armenian citizenship in December 2008, he was Armenia's Ambassador to Switzerland.

In the 21st century, Aznavour collaborated with Cuban Chucho Valdés (1941) on the album "Color Ma Vie", which was released in 2007. In 2008, Charles performed the 1964 hit "Hier encore" in a duet with Elton John (1947). In 2013, the song "You and I" from the 1995 album of the same name was recorded with Russian singer Polina Gagarina.

The Frenchman enjoyed visiting Russia, periodically delighting his fans with solo concerts, which were always full houses. In recent years, Charles continued his concert activity, but not as actively as before. In April 2018, a concert of the chansonnier in St. Petersburg was scheduled, but the performance was cancelled due to the artist's unwellness. On October 1, 2018, at the age of 95, Charles Aznavour died. The great musician died in his house in the south of France. The artist was buried in the family crypt in the commune of Montfort-l'Amaury near Paris.

According to the results of a poll of The Time magazine readers and CNN viewers, which took place in 1998, the singer took the first line of the rating of the best entertainers of the XX century. His long creative path is so vivid and amazing that it seems unreal. The singer belongs to those people about whom it is customary to speak only in the superlative degree: the most beautiful voice, a great actor, the best composer, a born genius, etc.

Musical selection for the 100th birth anniversary of the legendary Charles Aznavour is posted in museum Phonotheque.

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