French Role Model : Eternel
Immigrant Charles Aznavour ...
Paris Report Darius KADIVAR
A year ago, I had the oppurtunity to
see French Singer crooner Charles Aznavour on French TV talk
Show Vivement Dimanche dedicated to former Empress of
Iran Farah Pahlavi. Azavour sang a touching song "Voyages"
aka "Trip" with his second daughter Katia and shared souveniers
with the Empress.
I have been listening to Charles Aznavour
since I was a kid thanks to my own parents who loved his songs. He
is certainly THE quentessential French Crooner known internationally
for his appearances along other Great Singers: Frank Sinatra (who
considered him as his only rival), Liza Miinelli who introduced him
to the Americans, Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, or British TV host
and singer Shirley
Bassey. He was also often shown on Iranian TV in the 70’s.
Yet Aznavour never had
the so-called great Voice or the good Looks as his American counterpart
Frank Sinatra. However he had what Sinatra didn’t a talent to compose
and write his own lyrics and also for other singers. In a career that
expands over 60 years it would seem surprising to note that he was
ignored by critics for more than 20 years often playing in movies
some of which are considered today as milestones in French Cinema
like François Truffauts “On a tiré sur le pianist”
or Interesting portrayals in European co-productions like the
film adaptation of Agatha Christies Ten Little Indians shot in Iran’s Shah Abbas Hotel. He gained fame
through hard work and determination composing for such great Stars
as Edith Piaf or Rock Star Johnny Hallyday before going solo and singing
on his own. His talent was confirmed and revealed to the French precisely
thanks to the Americans, and to
numerous appearances as the new French Crooner on Johnny Carson’s
Aznavour’s first daughter
born to his marriage has also the name of Seda which means Voice in
both Persian and Armenian. It was therefore not a surprise to see
him on the show dedicated to the former Empress whose Biography was
a bestseller in France. Farah Diba as she is known in France, greeted
Aznavour in Armenian while paying tribute to another great Armenian
singer of Iranian origine who had just passed away
Finally recognized : Aznavour
in Paris 1959
It was touching to hear Aznavour say that he always felt at
home in Iran and considered that Iranians and Armenians had alot in
common: sharing often a common history, heritage and even food. He
also remembered with humor and nostalgia a private meeting at Niavaran
Palace with the former Shah. The latter expressed his interest in
the French Armenian’s career. The two spoke in French for at least
an hour but Aznavour noted that the Shah was contrary to general knowledge
a very shy man in private. When time was up with the meeting, the
Shah did not push him out and Aznavour who had not been in the private
company of an Emperor kept waiting and sipping his coffee when the
Court Chambellan came into the room hinting to Aznavour that it was
time to go ...
Strange destiny that of Charles Aznavour.
Born Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian in
Paris in 1924 to Armenian Parents (his father was the Georgian cook
of Russian Tzar Nicolas II) stopped in their migration to America
due to visa problems, and who years later is propelled to international
stardom as the singer that best impersonates France.
Songs like “Hier encore”, “Les Comediens”, “ Sa Jeunesse “
or “ Les plaisirs démodes “ continue to be sung by the younger
generations of French singers including Rap singers proving, if needed,
that Aznavour words are timeless and eternal. A role model
to many aspiring artists as the son of poor Armenian immigrants
who made it to the top, Aznavour is not alone in paving the way to
foreign artists. Yves Montand who also attmepted a small Hollywood
career with Marilyn Monroe is also another reference in French music
history along with Belgian Johnny Hallyday, Italian Egyptian Dalida,
North African, Pied Noir Enrico Macias or Hungarian Sylvie Vartan.
Recent riots in France that have caught
world attention leading to the first military curfew in the country
since the Riots of ’68, certainly give even more meaning to Aznavour’s
success story. France’s melting pot has been surfacing in the French
Media more than ever before with such singers as Laam or Faudel (who
happens to be Aznavours son in law)
of north african muslim backgrounds.
Aznavour never forgot his Armenian
roots although he considers himself as a French of Armenian roots.
He dedicated a song Pour L’Armenie to Armenia after one of the countries
most tragic earthquakes in 1989. An ardent defensor for the recognition
of the Armenian Holocaust (which is still being debated by the Turkish
government as essential to Turkey’s
integration to the European Union) Aznavour also played in
Canadian Armenian director Atom Egoyan’s great movie Ararat as a tribute
to this memory.
Recently Charles Aznavour celebrated
his 80tth birthday on French Television and was joined
by many other artists,thus confirming France’s attachment to one of
its greatest singers.
Chapeau Monsieur Aznavour ....
Collector item : For unconditional
fans only the entire collection of French songs is available on amazone.
It does not include the foreign songs including in English, Japanese,
German, Spanish ...
Aznavours Official Website:
And liten to song Mourir d’Aimer aka
Dying from love : http://www.malhanga.com/musicafrancesa/azenavour/mourrir.htm
Darius KADIVAR is a freelance journalist in France