Charles Aznavour – Renowned French Composer and Singer

Among his diverse interests, Peter Bergstein enjoys music. Peter Bergstein is passionate about the American vocal group The Eagles and the long-time French singer, actor, and songwriter Charles Aznavour.

Aznavour was born Shahnour Varenagh Aznavourian in 1924 in Paris to Armenian parents. Both parents were artistic; his father’s heartfelt vocal style influenced his son’s youthful singing. However, a diseased vocal cord hindered Aznavour’s tonal qualities. His singing had a raspy tone that led him to concentrate instead on theater and films. At age nine, he appeared in a play, Un Bon Petite Diable, and a film, La Guerre des Gosses.

While still a teenager, Aznavour toured as a member of theatrical companies, danced in nightclubs, and wrote music for nightclub singer Pierre Roche. This opened the door for Aznavour’s vocals. Edith Piaf, already a singing star, encouraged him to develop his own singing style.

Success initially eluded him. French radio refused to play Aznavour’s music on grounds of being mildly risqué. He earned his living in second-rate venues on three continents. Audiences had difficulty grasping his unusual but expressive vocal style and realistic love songs.

Tastes changed and, in 1956, Aznavour’s reputation grew after being enthusiastically received in Casablanca. Performing at better clubs in France led him to a recording contract and several movie appearances, most notably Francois Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player. The role made him a star in France and paved the way to fame in America.

Aznavour sang at Carnegie Hall in the early 1960s, followed by a one-man show in 1965. Critically and publicly acclaimed, Aznavour signed a contract with Reprise, Frank Sinatra’s label. In the decades since, Aznavour’s style has remained popular. His voice has been regarded as pleasingly similar to Sinatra’s and Maurice Chevalier’s.

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