Remembering Charles Aznavour
I was sorry to read about the loss today of Charles Aznavour, though he had an impressively long and active life, passing away at the age of 94. More impressively, he had just returned from a concert tour in Japan.
I have a couple of his albums, both in French and English. That's a blip on his register, since he sold 180 million. He was often referred to as the French Frank Sinatra, but that doesn't remotely do him justice since he wrote (or co-wrote) most of his own songs. In 1998, because of his worldwide popularly (lasting over eight decades! He started on stage at 9-years-old), CNN named him "Entertainer of the Century." Oddly, it took until last year before he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He also did a bit of acting, most famously as the star of the 1960 French film, Shoot the Piano Piano Player, the second movie directed by Francois Truffaut.
Though renowned around the world, Aznavour wasn't all that well-known in the U.S. However, he had a couple of songs that attained quite a bit of popularity. I thought I'd embed them here, both in French and English.
The first is one that you most certainly know if you've seen the movie, Notting Hill, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Aznavour wrote the ballad that they use in the montage at the end, "She." Interestingly, the English lyrics are written by Herbert Kretzmer who first came to my attention for written the lyrics to a British musical I saw, The Four Musketeers starring my fave Harry Secombe. But he came to far greater worldwide success when he wrote the English translations for the songs in Les Miserables. First though, since you probably may recall the English version, here's Charles Aznavour singing it in the original French (which, despite what it says below, is titled "Lei."
And here's the version you are more likely to know, with Herbert Kretzmer's English lyrics to Aznavour's music, "She."
As I said, Charles Aznavour had another hit in the United States, and oddly it was in the country music field. Roy Clark, who is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and is probably best known to non-country music fans as one of the hosts on the TV series, Hee-Haw) recorded the English version of Aznavour's "Yesterday When I Was Young." It reached #9 on the country charts (where I suspect few knew it was actually a French song) and even was a cross-over hit, hitting #19 in pop music. Again, the English lyrics were by Herbert Kretzmer. (Aznavour collaborated with several English translators, not just Kretzmer. But that's with who he had his biggest successes here.)
Since you may not know the song (though many may), I'll go with the English version first. It's worth noting that Aznavour was a spry 85 when he performed this here.
And here is the original French version "Hier Encore" (Yesterday Again). I post this for two reasons. One, the obvious one -- it's in the original French. But also, because this was recorded in 2015, when Charles Aznavour was 91. And he's wonderful.
And as a bonus, here's one more of his songs. I can't find a good video of it, but this is from one of the albums I have, A Man's Life. Appropriately for today, it's his anthem, "The Road to Eternity."
(And to show he collaborated with others for the English translations, this -- like most of the others on the album -- has English lyrics by Bob Morrison.)
We'll end with a scene from Shoot the Piano Player. It cuts off about 30 seconds too early. He gets the girl to laugh, though by accident, as he twists himself in a knot trying to figure out how to get her to laugh.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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