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French Singer Charles Aznavour Dies At 94


Singer, songwriter and actor Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94. He had often been called the French Frank Sinatra. Aznavour was an international star who performed around the world. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports he was especially beloved in his native France, where tributes are pouring in.

CHARLES AZNAVOUR: Charles Aznavour songs are playing nonstop on French radio.


AZNAVOUR: (Singing in French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The country's president, Emmanuel Macron, tweeted that Aznavour had accompanied the joys and pains of three generations and that his voice and unique brilliance will shine on. Throughout his 70-year career, Aznavour sold more than a hundred million records in 80 countries. Jean-Pierre Pasqualini, head of programming at Melody TV, says Aznavour broke taboos.

JEAN-PIERRE PASQUALINI: He was the first singer in the '50s who was sensual. In the '50s, all the girls had blushes when they listened to Charles Aznavour.


AZNAVOUR: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: Pasqualini says Aznavour was daring. The singer composed some 1,400 songs, many about important themes.

PASQUALINI: He wrote about homosexuality. In '72, it was very early. He dared a lot.

BEARDSLEY: Charles Aznavour was born in France in 1924. His relatives fled the Armenian genocide in Turkey. Aznavour was discovered by Edith Piaf and wrote songs for her and toured with her after the war. He had his biggest hit in English in 1974 with "She."


AZNAVOUR: (Singing) Me, I'll take her laughter and her tears and make them all my souvenirs, for where she goes, I've got to be. The meaning of my life is she.

BEARDSLEY: Aznavour also acted in more than 60 films, including Francois Truffaut's "Shoot The Piano Player" Aznavour told NPR two years ago when he was on tour in the U.S. that he couldn't hear well and had to use a teleprompter to remember the words to his songs. But he said his audience didn't mind.


AZNAVOUR: Funny enough, they accepted it more and more. They're close to me because they are my confidantes. Public is my first love.

BEARDSLEY: Charles Aznavour composed and performed until the very end. He was set to go on tour later this month. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.


AZNAVOUR: (Singing) You are the one for me, for me, for me formidable. But how can you... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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