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Charles Aznavour, OC ( ; born Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian (Շահնուր Վաղինակ Ազնաւուրեան), May 22, 1924, Parismarker) is an Frenchmarker singer, songwriter, actor, public activist and diplomat. Besides being one of France's most popular and enduring singers, he is also one of the most well-known singers in the world. He is known for his characteristic short figure and unique tenor voice; clear and ringing in its upper reaches, with gravely and profound low notes. He has appeared in more than 60 movies, composed about 1,000 songs (including at least 150 in English, 100 in Italian, 70 in Spanish, and 50 in German), and sold well over 100 million records.

In 1998, Charles Aznavour was chosen as 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. He has sung for presidents, popes, and royalty, as well as at humanitarian events, and is the founder of the charitable organization Aznavour for Armenia along with his long-time friend and impresario Levon Sayan.

Aznavour started his global farewell tour in late 2006, which continues through this day. In 2009 he was appointed ambassador of Armenia to Switzerlandmarker, as well as Armenia's permanent delegate to the United Nations at Genevamarker.


Little Charles with his Mother Knar (1920s)


Aznavour was born in Parismarker, the son of Armenian immigrants Michael Aznavourian (from Akhaltsikhemarker in Georgiamarker) and Knar Bagdasarian (from Turkeymarker). His artistic parents introduced him to the world of theatre at an early age. He dropped out of school at the age of nine, already aspiring to the life of an artist. He began to perform at this time, and soon took the stage name "Aznavour". His big break came when the singer Édith Piaf heard him sing and arranged to take him with her on tour in France and to the United Statesmarker.

Aznavour's voice is shaded towards the tenor range, but possesses the low range and coloration more typical of a baritone, contributing to his unique sound.


Often described as the "Frank Sinatra of France", Aznavour sings mostly about love. He has written musicals and about a thousand songs, and made more than one hundred records. Aznavour speaks and sings in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese, Neapolitan), which has helped him perform at Carnegie Hallmarker and other major venues around the world. He also recorded at least one song from the 18th century poet Sayat Nova, in Armenian. Que C'est Triste Venise, sung in French, Italian (Com'è Triste Venezia), Spanish (Venecia Sin Ti), English (How Sad Venice Can Be), and German (Venedig in Grau), is one of Aznavour's most famous multilingual songs.

In 1974 Aznavour became a major success in the United Kingdommarker where his song "She" went to Number One in the charts. His other well-known song in the UK was "Dance in the Old Fashioned Way".

Artists who have covered his songs and collaborated with Aznavour include Fred Astaire, Andrea Bocelli, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli, Josh Groban, Shirley Bassey, José Carreras, Laura Pausini, Nana Mouskouri and Julio Iglesias. Fellow French pop legend Mireille Mathieu has sung and recorded with Aznavour on numerous occasions. In 1974, Jack Jones recorded an entire album of Aznavour compositions entitled "Write Me A Love Song, Charlie", re-released on CD in 2006 . Aznavour and Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti sang Gounod's aria Ave Maria together. He performed with famed Russian cellist and friend Mstislav Rostropovich to inaugurate the French presidency of the European Union in 1995. Elvis Costello recorded "She" for the film Notting Hill. One of Aznavour's greatest friends and collaborators from the music industry is legendary Spanishmarker operatic tenor Plácido Domingo, who often performs his hits, most notably a studio recording of "Les bateaux sont partis" in 1985, as well as multiple live renditions Aznavour's "Ave Maria". In 1994, Aznavour performed with Domingo and Norwegianmarker soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø at Domingo's third annual Christmas in Vienna concert. The three singers performed a variety of carols, medleys, and duets, and the concert was televised throughout the world, as well as released on a CD internationally. Sissel Kyrkjebø (Soprano)

At the start of autumn in 2006, Aznavour initiated his farewell tour, performing in the US and Canada, and earning very positive reviews. Aznavour started 2007 with concerts all over Japan and Asia. The second half of 2007 saw Aznavour return to Paris for over 20 shows at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, followed by more touring in Belgiummarker, the Netherlandsmarker, and the rest of France. He has repeatedly stated that this farewell tour, health permitting, will likely last beyond 2010. At 85, Aznavour is in excellent health, although admittedly 60 years on stage have made him "a little hard of hearing". He still sings in multiple languages and without persistent use of teleprompters, but typically sticks to just two or three (French and English being the primary two, with Spanish or Italian being the third) during most concerts. On 30 September 2006, Aznavour performed a major concert in Yerevanmarker, the capital of Armenia to start off the cultural season "Arménie mon amie" in France. Former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan and French president Jacques Chirac, at the time on an official visit to Armenia, were in front-row attendance.

Charles Aznavour in concert (1988).

In 2006, 82-year old Aznavour traveled to Cubamarker, where he, together with Chucho Valdes, recorded his new album Colore Ma Vie, presented at Aznavour's Moscowmarker concert in April 2007. Later, in July 2007, Aznavour was invited to perform at the Vieilles Charrues Festival.

"Forever Cool" (2007), an album from Capitol/EMI, features Aznavour singing a new duet of "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime" with the voice of the late Dean Martin.

Aznavour finished a tour of Portugalmarker in February 2008. On 18 January 2008 he participated as guest vocalist with the contestants of the French reality show Star Academy and sang his famous Emmenez-Moi with contestant Jérémy Chapron. Throughout the spring of 2008, Aznavour toured South America, holding a multitude of concerts in Argentinamarker, Brazilmarker, Chilemarker, and Uruguaymarker. Summer saw him in Quebecmarker, and a return to Latin America followed in autumn.

Charles Aznavour's newest album, the highly-anticipated international release of Duos, is a collaborative effort featuring Aznavour and his greatest friends and partners from his long career in the music industry, including Celine Dion, Laura Pausini, Josh Groban, Plácido Domingo, and many others. It was released on various dates in December 2008 across the world. His next album, Charles Aznavour and The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (previosuly known as Jazznavour 2), is a continuation in the same vein as his hit album Jazznavour released in 1998, involving new arrangements on his classic songs with a jazz orchestra and other guest jazz artists. It will be released on November 30, 2009.

Aznavour's current tour, Aznavour en liberté , which started in late April 2009 with a wave of concerts across the United States and Canada, will again take him across Latin America in the autumn, as well as the USA once again.


Aznavour has had a long and varied parallel career as an actor, appearing in over 60 films. In 1960 Aznavour starred in François Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste, playing a character called Édouard Saroyan. He also put in a critically acclaimed performance in the 1974 movie And Then There Were None. Aznavour had an important supporting role in 1978's The Tin Drum, winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1979. Aznavour starred in the 2002 movie Ararat playing Edward Saroyan, a movie director.

Armenia and abroad

Since the 1988 earthquake in Armeniamarker, Aznavour has been helping the country through his charity, Aznavour for Armenia. Together with his brother in-law and co-author Georges Garvarentz he writes the song "Pour toi Arménie", which was performed by a group of famous French artists and topped the charts for 18 weeks. There is a square named after him in central Yerevanmarker on Abovian Street, and a statue erected in Gyumrimarker, which saw the most lives lost in the earthquake. In 1995 Charles Aznavour was appointed an Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Armenia to UNESCOmarker. Aznavour is a member of the Armenia Fund International Board of Trustees. The organization has rendered more than $150 million in humanitarian aid and infrastructure development assistance to Armenia since 1992. Charles Aznavour was appointed as "Officier" (Officer) of the Légion d'honneur in 1997.

In 2004 Aznavour received the title of "National Hero" of Armenia for his humanitarian work, Armenia's highest award. On December 26, 2008, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan signed a presidential decree for granting citizenship for the Republic of Armeniamarker to Charles Aznavour whom he called a "prominent singer and public figure" and "a hero of the Armenian people".

An admirer of Québecmarker, where he played in Montréalmarker cabarets before becoming famous, he has helped the career of Québécoise singer-songwriter Lynda Lemay in France, and has a house in Montreal. On 5 July 2008, he was invested as an honorary officer of the Order of Canada and performed the following day on the Plains of Abrahammarker as a feature of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec Citymarker.

Also in Egypt , The Ministry of Culture , did a concert respect for his name and it was performed by the International Egyptian Singer Tony Kaldas in Chateau de Ghouri in December 2006 singing a big Aznavour's repertoire.

Personal life and cultural impact

Charles Aznavour, a photo by Xavier Thomas.

Aznavour married his third wife, Swede Ulla Thorsell, in 1968. He has 6 children - Seda, Katia, Misha, Nicolas, Charles, and Patrick. He currently resides in Genevamarker, Switzerlandmarker.

His musicality and fame abroad is present in many other areas of pop culture. Aznavour's name was used as the basis for the name of the character Char Aznable by Yoshiyuki Tomino in his anime mecha series, Mobile Suit Gundam. His song "Parce Que Tu Crois" was sampled by Hip Hop producer Dr. Dre for the song "What's the Difference", from his album "2001". He is mentioned in The Psychedelic Furs song "Sister Europe" ("The radio upon the floor/ is stupid, it plays Aznavour").

He has often joked about his physicality. He stands only 160 cm. He has had a nose surgery to reduce what he considers its "massive length" during his youth to appeal more to the public as a singer. Jokingly on a TV5 interview, he said that he used to twist his nose to one side when passing by a lady, saying "excuse me".


Charles Aznavour has been increasingly involved in French, Armenian, and international politics as his career has progressed. During the 2002 French presidential elections, when radical right-wing nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front made it into the runoff election, facing incumbent Jacques Chirac, Aznavour signed the "Vive la France" petition, and called on all French to "sing the Marseillaise" in protest. Chirac, a personal friend of Aznavour's, ended up winning in a landslide, carrying over 82% of the vote.

He has written a song about the Armenian Genocide, titled Ils sont tombés (in English "They fell").

He has also campaigned fervently for international copyright law reform. In November 2005 he met with President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso on the issue of the review of term of protection for performers and producers in the EU, advocating an extension of the EU's term of protection from the current 50 years to the United States's law allowing 95 years, saying "[o]n term of protection, artists and record companies are of the same mind. Extension of term of protection would be good for European culture, positive for the European economy and would put an end the current discrimination with the U.S." He has also notably butted heads with French politician Christine Boutin over her defense of a "global license" flat-fee authorization for sharing of copyrighted files over the Internet, claiming that the license would eliminate creativity. In May 2009 the French Senatemarker approved one of the strictest internet anti-piracy bills ever with a landslide 189-14 vote. Aznavour was a vocal proponent of the measure and considered it a rousing victory:

"If the youth can't make a living through creative work, they will do something else and the artistic world will be dealt a blow... There will be no more songs, no more books, nothing at all. So we had to fight," said Aznavour.

Along with holding the mostly ceremonial title of French ambassador-at-large to Armenia, Aznavour agreed to hold the position of Ambassador of Armenia to Switzerlandmarker on February 12, 2009:
"First I hesitated, as it is not an easy task.
Then I thought that what is important for Armenia is important for us.
I have accepted the proposal with love, happiness and feeling of deep dignity," said Aznavour.

Awards and recognition

Greatest hits

(2001 collection tracklist)



  • La Guerre des gosses (1936) — Extra
  • Les Disparus de Saint-Agil (1938) (uncredited) — Un élève
  • Adieu chérie (1946) (as Aznavour) — Le duettiste
  • Entrez dans la danse (1948)
  • Une gosse sensass' (1957) — Le chanteur
  • Paris Music Hall (1957) — Charles
  • La Tête contre les murs (1959) — Heurtevent
  • Les Dragueurs (1959) — Joseph Bouvier
  • Pourquoi viens-tu si tard? (1959) — Un danseur
  • Oh! Qué mambo (1959) (uncredited) — Un spectateur au cabaret
  • Le Testament d'Orphée (1960) (uncredited) — The Curious Man
  • Un taxi pour Tobrouk (1960) — Samuel Goldmann
  • Le Passage du Rhin (1960) — Roger
  • Tirez sur le pianiste (1960) — Charlie Kohler/Édouard Saroyan
  • Gosse de Paris (1961)
  • Les Lions sont lâchés (1961) — Charles, un convive de Marie-Laure
  • Esame di guida - tempo di Roma (1962) — Marcello
  • Horace 62 (1962) — Horace Fabiani
  • Le Diable et les dix commandements (1962) — Denis Mayeux (episode "Homicide point ne seras")
  • Les Quatre vérités (1962) — Charles
  • Les Vierges (1963) — Berthet
  • Cherchez l'Idole (1963) — Aznavour
  • Le Rat d'Amérique (1963) — Charles
  • Thomas l'imposteur (1964)
  • Alta infedeltà (1964) — Giulio (segment "Peccato nel Pomeriggio")
  • La Métamorphose des cloportes (1965) — Edmond
  • Le Facteur s'en va-t-en guerre (1966) — Thibon
  • Paris au mois d'août (1966) — Henri Plantin
  • Caroline chérie (1968) — Postillon
  • Candy (1968) — Hunchback juggler
  • Le Temps des loups (1969) — Inspector
  • The Adventurers (1970) — Marcel Campion
  • L'Amour (1970) — Le présentateur
  • The Games (1970) — Pavel Vendek
  • The Selfish Giant (1971) — Narrator (French version)
  • Un beau monstre (1971) — Inspector Leroy
  • Part des lions (1971) — Éric Chambon
  • Les Intrus (1972) — Charles Bernard
  • The Blockhouse (1973) — Visconti
  • Dix Petits Negres (1974) Dir Peter Colinson, Produit par Gerard Thum
  • Ein Unbekannter rechnet ab (1974) — Michel Raven
  • Sky Riders (1976) — Insp. Nikolidis
  • Folies bourgeoises (1976) — Dr. Lartigue
  • Die Blechtrommel (1979) — Sigismund Markus
  • Ciao, les mecs (1979) — L'amnésique
  • Der Zauberberg (1982) — Naphta
  • Qu'est-ce qui fait courir David? (1982) — Léon, le père de David
  • Les Fantômes du chapelier (1982) — Kachoudas
  • Une jeunesse (1983) — Bellun
  • Viva la vie! (1984) — Édouard Takvorian
  • Yiddish Connection (1986) — Aaron Rapoport
  • Mangeclous (1988) — Jérémie
  • Il Maestro (1989) — Romualdi
  • Charles Aznavour Armenia 1989 (1989)
  • Les Années campagne (1992) — Le grand-père/Grandfather
  • Pondichéry, dernier comptoir des Indes (1997) — Léo Bauman
  • Le Comédien (1997) — Monsieur Maillard
  • Laguna (2001)
  • Truth About Charlie (2002) — Himself
  • Ararat (2002) — Edward Saroyan
  • Le Père Goriot (2004) — Jean-Joachim Goriot
  • Ennemis publics (2005)
  • Mon colonel (2006) — Père Rossi
  • Up (2009) — Carl Fredricksen (French Voice)

Charles Aznavour Videos/DVDs

  • Charles Aznavour - Armenia 1989, (Armenfilm) 1989 color 10min. 35mm. Director Levon Mkrtchyan. The film is about the humanitarian aid that Charles Aznavour, a famous French singer of Armenian origin, brought to Armenia after the Spitak earthquakemarker in 1988.[13676]
  • Christmas in Vienna III, A Christmas gala concert live from Vienna on 22 December 1994 with Aznavour, Plácido Domingo and Sissel Kyrkjebø, featuring the Vienna Symphony conducted by famed Croatian conductor Vjekoslav Šutej.
  • Making of "Colore ma vie", A making-of featurette released in 2007 coinciding with the release of Aznavour's latest studio album, Colore ma vie. Filmed in Havanamarker and Parismarker, it shows his collaboration with Chucho Valdez and the thoughts, opinions, and artistry the two put into the album.

See also


External links

Live performances

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