“I’ll take her laughter and her tears, and make them all my souvenirs,” he crooned in “She,” one of his most distinctive songs. Charles Aznavour’s distinctive, tenor voice entertained millions over his decades-long career. He passed away Oct. 1 at the age of 94. He never stopped performing.
Aznavour’s music has the power to completely and utterly take over one’s world. Each song comes to represent a different story for each person. Be it pain, happiness, love or sadness. This is what made his art so relatable to his audience. It connected him to people that would never get to meet him.
I am among those people. My parents fell in love under his beautiful tunes. As they started a family, they taught their kids to love his music, too. The family grew bigger along the lyric lines of Aznavour’s sweet, velvet songs.
As a little girl, I dreamt that one day he would sing “She” on my wedding day. The song would carry me from childhood to adulthood and then into womanhood, and beyond. This would somehow give me reassurance that not all of my youth is left behind, but that this was just an extension of it. Regrettably, a recorded version of the song will now have to replace his artistic presence.
Though a small man of just 5 feet 3 inches, his stage presence was nothing short of kinetic and astounding. His bright, passionate spirit filled the largest of stages, leaving crowds craving for more.
His voice was clear and ringing when in the upper reaches. In the low notes, his voice was profound and simple. His songs were versatile. And with each melody, word, and song, Aznavour healed. He healed broken feelings, homes, countries, and history.
Naturally a foolhardy character, the chansonnier often liked to be sarcastic in interviews, but his smile represented so much more than that. In his small almond-shaped eyes, you could see the hope he held for the world. He worked so hard as a diplomat to bring awareness to causes he believed in.
Born to Armenian parents who escaped the genocide and relocated in Paris, a young Charles experienced firsthand of what it’s actually like to struggle. For the rest of his life, he strived to make the world a better place for those who struggled too.
The experiences of his family, and those of his own, shaped his passion for the Armenian cause. In 1976, Aznavour, along with his fellow French-Armenian composer and singer, Georges Garvarentz, wrote a song dedicated to the Armenian Genocide. The song brought a lot of international attention to the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turks.
In 1988 a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 hit Northern Armenia, killing 45,000 inhabitants. During this time, Aznavour was one of the first to publicly speak about it, asking international agencies to send aid to Armenia. In 1989, he wrote a charity song named “Por toi Arménie” (For you, Armenia), which became an international favorite, helping raise funds for the reconciliation process of the country. A group of French singers, actors and TV presenters joined Aznavour in this cause. The charity single sold more than 1 million copies during this time.
The talented artist connected Armenians to the rest of the European world, in a way which would otherwise be unimaginable; forever leaving his remarkable traces on the international relations arena for both.
Through and through, people fell in love with Aznavour and what he gave to the world. His songs will continue to inspire many generations to come.