Entertainment

‘France’s Frank Sinatra’ Charles Aznavour dies

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"France's Frank Sinatra" Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94.

The legendary singer, who was born Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in Paris to Armenian parents, sold more than 100 million records in 80 countries.

He sang to sold-out concert halls until the end, having just returned home to Alpilles in southeastern France following a concert tour of Japan last month. Shows in Europe were also planned for later this year.

Just last week, he reportedly told a French TV station that he would happily die on stage.

Image: Aznavour sold millions of records across the world

"I always go forwards," he said. "There is no backwards step with me. All I can do is live, and I live on stage. I am happy up there, and you can see that."

Both the singer's producer, Gerard Drouout Productions, and the French culture ministry confirmed his death, with government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux tweeting: "Thank you, M. Aznavour."

French President Emmanuel Macron was reportedly a huge fan of the star, singing many of his songs during karaoke nights with friends when he was a student, according to former classmates.

In a tweet paying tribute, he said: "Proudly French, viscerally attached to his Armenian roots, known all over the world, Charles Aznavour accompanied three generations through their joys and pains. His masterpieces, his tone, his unique brilliance will live far beyond him."

Man who has warmed hearts of hundreds of millions of people for 80 years is not with us anymore. This is a day of sadness, a day of mourning in our countrys & peoples history: hero of #Armenia Charles #Aznavour has died. This is a universal loss. #NP pic.twitter.com/qaUqD8TFIX

— Government of Armenia (@armgov) October 1, 2018

In a career spanning more than 70 years, Aznavour recorded more than 1,200 songs, including She – famously performed by Elvis Costello in Richard Curtis's Notting Hill – and Formidable.

He also appeared in dozens of films and in 1998 was named "entertainer of the century" by CNN and Time Online.

Singer Charles Aznavour poses with his family on his Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in Hollywood
Image: Aznavour received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017

Born in 1924, Aznavour's father was a singer who also worked as a cook and restaurant manager, while his mother was an actress.

He took his stage name aged just nine, starting his career in entertainment as a comedian before moving on to singing in his teens.

He began his musical career peddling his songs to French artists of the 1940s and 1950s such as Maurice Chevalier, Charles Trenet and Edith Piaf, who took him under her wing.

RIP to singer, songwriter and actor Charles Aznavour, who has passed away at the age of 94.
Seen here in François Truffaut's "Shoot the Piano Player" (1960) pic.twitter.com/kCLmPBKL26

— BFI (@BFI) October 1, 2018

Very sad to hear about the passing of the legendary French singer Charles Aznavour. With great respect … rest in peace Charles … x pic.twitter.com/SQBQEePxFX

— Guy Chambers (@guyachambers) October 1, 2018

Aznavour had his first number one hit in 1956 with Sur Ma Vie (In My Life), followed by one of his biggest hits, Je M'voyais Deja (It Will Be My Day).

However, it was his leading role in Francois Truffaut's film, Shoot The Piano Player, in 1960 that catapulted him to international stardom.

The multi-lingual singer went on to take New York's Carnegie Hall by storm in 1963 before touring the world and seeing his songs recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Liza Minnelli and Fred Astaire.

One of the Armenian diaspora's most recognised faces and vocal defenders, he was a tireless campaigner and often pushed boundaries with his lyrics, writing about his own experiences as an immigrant and breaking taboos about marriage, sexuality and men talking about their emotions.

You were the one, for me, for me, for me, formidable… Adieu Monsieur Charles #Aznavour ??

— Laurent MARTINEZ (@laurent66690) October 1, 2018

In 2015, he released his 51st album, Encores, and received a star on Hollywood's Walk Of Fame just last year.

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Fans have paid tribute to the star, with former French prime minister Manuel Valls among the first leaders to react to his death. He praised "this son of Armenian immigrants who became one of the greatest and most beautiful symbols of French brilliance.

"Adieu and thank you," he tweeted.

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