PARIS — French-Armenian singer-songwriter-actor Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94. He died overnight at one of his homes, in the southeast of France, a spokeswoman said on October 1.
Aznavour, the son of Armenian immigrants and a performer whose worldwide fame rivaled that of stars such as Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, continued to perform to packed stadiums around the world into his 90s, started his career when he was 9 years old as an actor in Paris. He was best known for songs such as “She,” “Yesterday When I Was Young” and “For Mama”. Aznavour sold more than 180 million records and appeared in more than 60 films. Bob Dylan considered Aznavour, sometimes referred to as a Gallic Frank Sinatra, to be “one of the greatest live performers” he’d ever seen.
Born Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in Paris in 1924, Aznavour began his career peddling his music to French artists of the 1940s and 1950s such as Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, and Charles Trenet. He came to prominence after Piaf took him with her on tour in France and to the United States after World War II.
Aznavour won fans around the world with his versatile tenor, lush lyrics, and kinetic stage presence.
News of the singer’s death generated an outpouring of grief and gratitude.
“Profoundly French, viscerally attached to his Armenian roots and recognized the world over, Charles Aznavour shared the joy and pain of three generations. His masterpieces, the timbre of his voice and his unique influence will long outlive him.” French Presient Emmanuel Macron said in a Tweet.
“Merci, Monsieur Aznavour,” French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux tweeted.
“Goodbye Mr. Aznavour, your songs will remain eternal. I feel like I’ve lost my grandfather,” a Twitter user with the handle Patrice.B remarked in French.
Aznavour — whose career spanned eight decades and who had planned to go back on tour later in October — said last week that he dreamed of breathing his last breath on stage.
“All I can do is live, and I live on stage. I am happy up there, and you can see that,” he said.
Aznavour had had his first No. 1 hit in 1956 with Sur Ma Vie (In My Life), which was followed by one of his biggest hits, Je M’voyais Deja (It Will Be My Day). His role in Francois Truffaut’s 1960 film Shoot The Piano Player brought him international fame.
Aznavour grew up on Paris’s Left Bank, born to a mother who was an actress and a father who was a singer and also worked as a cook and restaurant manager. His father immigrated from Georgia and his mother from the Ottoman Turkey, where up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in World War I-era Genocide.
After the devastating 1988 earthquake that killed at least 25,000 people in what was then Soviet Armenia, Aznavour founded the charitable organization Aznavour for Armenia along with his longtime friend, impresario Levon Sayan.
In 2009, the Armenian government appointed him ambassador to Switzerland and its delegate to the United Nations agencies in Geneva.
In August 2017, Aznavour was awarded the 2,618th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.