Legendary French composer and actor Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94.
The singer/songwriter, often called “The Sinatra of France,” enjoyed a career spanning more than eight decades. He died suddenly at his home in the Alpilles mountain range sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, according to his spokesman. His cause of death is currently unknown.
Aznavour wrote songs recorded by Édith Piaf, Juliette Gréco, Liza Minnelli, Elton John and Elvis Costello — and, of course, Sinatra himself. His signature songs, immensely popular for their cabaret styling and romantic melodies, include “Yesterday When I Was Young,” “She,” “Formidable,” “I Love Paris In The Month of May” and “La Boheme.” In all, he wrote over 40 classics in French, English, German and Spanish.
Born in 1924 in Paris’ St. Germain district to Armenian refugees, Aznavour left school at an early age to pursue a musical career, traveling in France and Belgium with a children’s troupe. Initially, Aznavour remained in the background, writing songs while honing his own music hall performance style until nearing his thirties when he began working with Edith Piaf. Encouraged by the singer, he wrote material for her and served as her opening act in concert.
As a recording artist, he sold nearly 200 million records, earned 40 gold records and continued performing on concert stages worldwide until his death. An internationally recognized actor, he was also featured in over 60 films — including François Truffaut’s 1960 New Wave classic Shoot the Piano Player, Candy (with Marlon Brando and Ringo Starr) and 1980’s Academy Award-winning film The Tin Drum.
The artist suffered a broken arm three months ago, which forced him to reschedule a series of Japanese concerts for November. Just last Thursday he performed on a French talk show. Appearing in good form, according to Le Parisian, he told the host he intended to live to 100.
Aznavour received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for live performance just over a year ago. Married three times, he fathered six children.
Here are a handful of some of the late legend’s most iconic songs.
His first international hit as a solo artist, Aznavour sang “For Me…Formidable” on tour in America in the 1960s — a time when he frequently appeared on early music television programs like Shindig and The Hollywood Palace.
“Encore Hier (Yesterday When I Was Young)”
Impossible not to sing along with or understand — no matter the language.
He performed the song during his last public appearance days before his death.
The 1999 film Notting Hill took Aznavour’s English translation of his own “Tous Les Visages de L’Amour” and handed Elvis Costello an unforgettable hit.