Good News - Charles Aznavour in LA -04-22-12
Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:06 PM
Azat jan Achqt Luys
Posted 19 April 2012 - 10:02 AM
April 18 2012
IN PERSON / French songwriter sang about gay people in 1972 Matthew
Charles Aznavour is impeccably dressed. He sits down to chat about
his life and career in a downtown Montreal theatre. He's wearing a
beautiful, sleek black suit and black leather shoes. But to top it
all off, he's wearing a long, flowing purple scarf, draped around his
neck and over his shoulder. Two things strike me as we shake hands:
it's impossible to believe he's now 88, and this gentle, charming
man is one of the gayest straight men ever.
Charles Aznavour wrote and sang Comme Ils Disent, a song about gay men,
in 1972.Aznavour is widely regarded as one of the greatest songwriters
and performers of the 20th Century, having composed more than 1,000
songs, performed by a staggering who's-who of the entertainment
world. Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Bob Dylan, Petula Clark, Ray
Charles, Lena Horne, Serge Gainsbourg; all have performed his songs
and sung his considerable praises.
Born in Paris to Armenian immigrant parents, Aznavour was born in a
trunk, as the old saying goes. His actor/performer parents led him to
acting and singing at a young age. In the years after WWII, Aznavour
became the protege of Edith Piaf, who told him of her intention to go
to New York. He said he longed to go, but had no money. She scoffed,
telling him he shouldn't let money get in the way.
He hopped a boat to New York, but upon arrival was interviewed by
authorities who felt his poor English made him suspicious, thus he
was detained briefly at Ellis Island. Finally, he was allowed into
New York where he lived with Piaf.
"But I couldn't speak English very well, nor sing in it," he recalls.
"So Edith sent me off to Montreal, where she thought there would be
work for me. But you know, back then, Montreal was mainly English,
so they weren't so wild about someone singing in French."
But Aznavour persisted, and he found an audience there. His first-ever
standing ovations were in Montreal. "This city is quite incredible.
People take risks here. I think that three of the greatest cities
for sheer creativity are London, New York and Montreal."
Aznavour has long been noted for breaking taboos, writing brazenly
and openly about sex in his songs. For years, the French government
banned some of his racier songs from radio play. "'Apres l'amour,'
was one, in which he sang about post-coital bliss. Obviously it's not
so shocking by today's standards. His career got a boost in 1958 when
the government lifted the ban and many of his songs could be heard
by a larger audience.
In 1972, Aznavour wrote what would become one of his most famous songs,
"Comme Ils Disent," or "What Makes a Man."
"I was the first to write a song in France about homosexuality," he
says. "I wanted to write about the specific problems my gay friends
faced. I could see things were different for them, that they were
The song's lyrics describe the life of a gay man, his cross-dressing at
Paris clubs by night, his close relationship to his mother. "I always
wrote about things that others might not have written about. We don't
mind frank language in books, the theatre or cinema, but for some
reason still to sing about such things is seen as odd."
Aznavour did an unusual thing in 1950. Then at only 26, he says
a turning point came when he sat down and wrote a list of what he
considered his main shortcomings. They included "my voice, my height,
my gestures, my lack of culture and education, my frankness and my
lack of personality." The list now seems so ironic, because he is
renowned for his voice, his gestures, and his height. In France the
5'2" singer is known simply as "Le petit Charles."
Aznavour has become something of an ambassador for the Armenian people,
singing for fundraisers and appearing in Toronto-based director Atom
Egoyan's 2002 film Ararat about the Armenian genocide.
But he says something surprising about his nationality. "I'm really
a French person. That's where I live, that's who I am."
If he has one anxiety about getting older, he responds "I know I'll
still feel like I'll have work to do, that the things I want to do
still won't be complete. I still feel like there is so much I want
Posted 20 April 2012 - 01:27 AM
Posted 28 April 2012 - 03:52 PM
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