By Sweet Sound of Sunrise

Charles Aznavour is one of the most famous French performers in the world, but it wasn’t easy getting to that point. It took him decades of struggling as a songwriter and musician to become accepted by audiences.

Born Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian in 1924 to an Armenian couple who had fled to Paris from the Turkish persecution, worldwide fame did not seem to be in his future. He dropped out of school at the age of ten, already hoping to become an artist, and took it upon himself to learn many languages. His fluency in Armenian, French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Neapolitan would help him greatly as a songwriter. He had no formal music training, but he learned much about the performing arts at home. His big break came when Edith Piaf heard him sing in 1946. She was so impressed that she had him accompany her on a tour to the United States. Even then, success came slowly and his career only began to pick up in the 1950s. Part of this may be attributed to the fact that his compositions were too risque for audiences at the time, although far from it by today’s standards.

The song La boheme is one of Charles Aznavour’s best-known works. He set the original French lyrics, composed by Jacques Plante, to music in 1966 and even translated it into Spanish, English, Italian, German, and Portuguese. It tells of the Bohemian life of an artist in Montmartre that Aznavour claims today’s (well, the 1960s’) teenagers could no longer understand, as the city had changed and lost its unique and creative atmosphere.

La boheme – Charles Aznavour