Monday, 1 October 2018

Charles Aznavour RIP

As I write the editorial page for this month, I see from a friend that Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94. Another great of French music leaves the stage.

Aznavour's career covered seven decades, and as an artist he represented for many a link between the golden age of French chanson and the 21st century. 

There had been some concern for his health in reecnt months after a broken arm sustained in a fall meant cancelled concerts, but on Friday an appearance on France 5's TV's C à Vous showed him in seemingly fine form, as indefatiguable as ever and detailing planned live shows.

Aznavour was a French artist who was known internationally, as respected in America as he was in Armenia, the country his parents came from.

Already the obituaries in the UK and the USA are referring to him, as the French Sinatra. It's the usual shorthand reserved for foreign artists, a quick comparison with an artist the audience will be more familar with.

But Aznavour was much more than Sinatra, writing for Piaf before launching his own career as a singer himself, writing his own material in a business at the time when performer and writer were usually seperate, and performing in a variety of languages for audiences in different countries.  He was also a significant film star in France and beyond.

Meanwhile, he was involved in politics and humanitarian issues, helping Armenia in the wake of a devastating earthquake in the 80s, and protestinng against the right wing in France.

As a performer he remained a captivating presence, taking to the stage long after many of his contemporaries had either died or retired. He loved what he did, and while there was certainly a nostalgia for another era in his shows in recent decades, he carried it off with panache and style.

I don't know if any other artist could compare, or achieve what he managed to do. He leaves an extraordinary legacy.

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