Charles's parents were artists producing shows that would hardly bring any profit. Several years later Mischa Aznavourian opened a small restaurant, “Caucasus”, where he frequently offered free lunches to those in need and where the father and son used to entertain visitors with singing performances.
His parents were
Mischa (Mamigon) Aznavourian
and Knar Baghdasaryan.
Charles Aznavour was born on
May 22, 1924, in Paris, in the family of Armenian immigrants.
Unfortunately, they had to close the restaurant, since their charitable ventures took a toll on the income. At a time the family was mainly supported by Charles’s mother, Knar, who used to bring in money by working as a seamstress for private clients.
They fled Western Armenia (now Turkey) during the Armenian Genocide and found a temporary home in Greece where Charles’s sister, Aida, was born on January 13, 1923. Later, the Aznavourian family traveled to France where they awaited visas to the US. The family did not realize at a time that they would settle there indefinitely.
Charles started his career at a very young age. Together with his sister Aida they used to make appearances in small plays and performances.
Charles Aznavour debuted on stage in 1933, notably as a dancer at the Théâtre du Petit Monde.
By participating in local competitions and winning monetary rewards, they even had their modest contribution to the family budget. It is during this period that Charles Aznavour developed a true passion for singing and dancing. He even started selling newspapers to earn money for his music and theater classes. Charles Aznavour debuted on stage in 1933, notably as a dancer at the Théâtre du Petit Monde.
At the age of 11, he participated in the creation of “Margot” by Édouard Bourdet at the Marigny Theater.
This intricate play that featured Pierre Fresnay and Yvonne Printemps and was accompanied by the music score by Georges Auric and Francis Poulenc, instantly became greatest theatrical event of the season.
They commenced to compose and write lyrics: first for themselves and later for others. Soon they became known as the “Roche and Aznavour” duet, which rapidly gained popularity thanks to concerts and tours in France and elsewhere.
At the end of the war, Aznavour's career began after meeting Pierre Roche, a very gifted pianist.
When the Resistance gained momentum in Nazi occupied Paris, the Germans got even more enraged and ruthless. The Gestapo tightened its grip day by day. Roundups and tortures became more frequent and sophisticated. Through his friend Missak Manouchian (who was shot in 1944 by the Nazis along with 21 other resistance fighters), Misha Aznavour, Charles' father, met Armenians forcibly enrolled in the German army.

At the risk of his own life, he would help them go into hiding. While he worked as a butler and even performed at the "Raffi" restaurant frequented visited by SS officers, he remained very cautious. When he met some of those recruited against their will, Misha spoke and joked with them to make sure that they were real Armenians and not students of Gestapo schools.
Whenever the soldiers passed the "exam" and expressed their willingness to leave the German army, Misha made it clear to the officers that he could help them escape. They were usually quick to grab the opportunity, so Misha Aznavour would meet them at a safe place after the closing of the restaurant and transfer them to his own house.
During the Second World War, the Aznavours, parents and children, hid numerous Jews and Armenians in their Paris apartment, which earned Charles and Aida the Raoul Wallenberg medal in 2017.
First, they would burn their German uniforms in the oven, and as soon as it got dark, Charles Aznavour and his sister would take the weapons and throw them in the sewage. The lives of numerous soldiers were saved due to the courage and resilience of the Aznavour family. The Aznavour’s also sheltered countless Jewish people persecuted by the ruthless Nazi regime․
A famous publisher, Raoul Breton who was a friend and a teacher for Charles Aznavour, gave some valuable assistance to Aznavour and Roche. It is thanks to him and his wife that they were introduced to French show business and specifically to Edith Piaf. Charles Aznavour wrote several songs for Piaf and became her manager.
Meanwhile the Roche-Aznavour duet was working really well; they recorded their first six records in Québec. They did over 40 weeks of concerts at the “Faisan Doré” at a rate of 11 shows a week and became local celebrities. However Charles Aznavour soon felt homesick and wished to move back to France, while Pierre Roche was content with his life in Canada.
From this collaboration grew a very strong friendship. Aznavour wrote the French version of the American hit “Jezebel” for Piaf and in a short time, this song became a real hit and a chartbuster. Piaf invited Aznavour and Roche to tour around the USA with her between 1947 and 1948. After visiting the United States, Roche and Aznavour settled in Canada where they quickly gained nationwide fame.
21 May 1947 was marked for Charles Aznavour by the birth of his first daughter, Seda.
Despite Roche’s decision to stay, Aznavour went back to France. Welcomed into Edith Piaf's circle of friends, he tried to find a place for himself, despite all the critics who predicted his failure saying that he had a strange voice, was too short or not handsome enough…
The year 1956 marked Aznavour’s first breakthrough as a singer. For his first show at Olympia, he wrote “Sur Ma Vie” (1956), which became his first popular song. After three months at Olympia his singing career was firmly established.
Sur ma vie

Je t'ai juré un jour

De t'aimer jusqu'au dernier jour de mes jours

Et même à présent

Je tiendrai serment

Malgré tout le mal que tu m'as fait
“J’aime Paris au mois de mai”,

“Ay ! mourir pour toi”,

“Sa jeunesse”…

Music-Hall magazine placed him at the top of its ranking of male singing stars and he obtained his first appearance as a headliner at the Olympia.
Appearance as a headliner at the Olympia
Even though Charles Aznavour’s first movie appearance was back in 1936 when he was a young boy, 1959 is the year of his first major cinematic role.
Aznavour in Cinema
His portrayal of Heurtevent in Georges Franju’s “La Tête contre les Murs” earned him the Prize for interpretation of French cinema. It was his meeting in 1957 with Jean-Pierre Mocky (with whom he collaborated shortly after in "Les Dragueurs") that prompted him to offer the role to Charles.
Charles Aznavour played the leading role in “Tirez sur le pianiste” by François Truffaut and was one of the main heroes in “Le Passage du Rhin” by André Cayatte, “A taxi for Tobruk” by Denys de La Patellière and “Gosse de Paris”, a short film by Marcel Martin. In 1963, Charles appeared in the film "Cherchez l'idole" (by Michel Boisrond).
This was a fruitful year for his film career.
He wrote all the lyrics to the music of his brother-in-law Georges Garvarentz, including "La Plus belle pour aller danser" for Sylvie Vartan, "Bonne chance" for Johnny Hallyday and "Et pourtant" for himself.

In 1964, the actor also interpreted the title role in the television series "Les Fables de la Fontaine" and, the following year, the singer was on the top of the charts with "La Bohème" (text by Jacques Plante) created by Georges Guétary for the operetta “Monsieur Carnaval” (by Frédéric Dard).

Charles Aznavour frequently used to recall an evening of December 12, 1960, when he performed in front of a very “frosty” public. The last song of the night was “Je m’voyais déjà“, which tells a story of a failed artist. At the end of the show, the spotlight was on the audience. No applause. Behind the scenes Charles Aznavour was ready to give up. He came out for one last bow and all of a sudden heard roars and applause. It was, at last, a triumph…
Productive years
In early 1960 he recorded “Les Deux Guitares”, “Tu t'laisses aller” and released his first album with Barclay.

“Emmenez-moi”, “Trop tard”, “Les comédiens”, “J’me voyais déjà" and other hits appeared in his repertoire. After the triumph in Carnegie Hall (1963) and lengthy tours in America, Europe and Asia Charles Aznavour became a world-famous star. His records were sold in millions of copies.

Charles Aznavour finally found success at the age of 36.
“Tu t’laisses aller” (1960),
“Il faut savoir” (1961),
“Les comédiens” (1962),
“La mamma” (1963),
“Et pourtant” (1963),
“Hier encore” (1964),
“For Me Formidable” (1964),
“Que c’est triste Venise” (1964),
“La Bohème” (1965),
“Emmenez-moi” (1967)
et “Désormais” (1969).

The following years were marked with the release of numeral successful compositions:
Charles and Ulla
They had three children and she always stood by his side. In 1969 his daughter Katia was born, followed by his sons Mischa and Nicolas.
In 1968 Aznavour found love and stability with Ulla, his wife.
As Aznavour said,
“Thanks to her, I was able to draw the line and get rid of all the “parasites” surrounding me”.
"they fell"
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Charles Aznavour wrote the song “They fell” with his brother-in-law Georges Garvarentz.
The song immediately became an anthem for the Armenian people, launching the demands for recognition and justice.
They fell
“Comme ils disent”
In 1972 Charles Aznavour wrote the song “Comme ils disent” (As they say).
It was the first of its kind dealing with homosexuality in all seriousness and without disrespect.

His friends at a time advised against the release, convinced that it would hurt his image. But Aznavour decided otherwise, certain that he should voice the subject he feels strongly about.
single "SHE"
Comme ils disent
The release of the single “She” in 1974 secured prominent success in the United Kingdom; the song became No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart and remained such for four weeks.
The song was also recorded in French, German and Italian and played a major role in making him an internationally famous singer.
Life in switzerland and USA
In 1976 together with his family Charles Aznavour moved to Switzerland, where his youngest son, Nicolas, was born the following year.
During this period, he was constantly on the road performing concerts around the world.
In 1982 the Aznavour family moved again, this time to live in the United States. After two years in Los Angeles and thereafter in Greenwich, Connecticut, they moved back to Switzerland in 1984.
For You, Armenia
The terrible earthquake that struck Armenia in 1988 was a turning point in Charles Aznavour’s life.

Having always been very close to his family, Armenia and Armenians were in his heart and blood. He immediately responded to the needs of the population and flew to Armenia.

The "Aznavour for Armenia" association was created and exactly two months after the earthquake, in February 1989, the song "For you, Armenia" written in a hurry by Charles Aznavour and Georges Garvarentz was ranked first in the Top 50.

It remained in the lead for 10 weeks before finally leaving the charts 18 weeks later. Performed by 90 artists and public personalities, with a clip directed by Henri Verneuil, the record sold three million copies and helped raise funds for reconstruction projects in Armenia.

The song was also adapted and released the same year in Italian, English and Armenian.

"Raoul Breton" Publishing house
Together with Gérard Davoust, Charles Aznavour claimed ownership of Raoul Breton Editions.

In addition to a rich heritage, which included Charles Trenet, the house later on signed Lynda Lemay, Grand Corps Malade, Alexis HK, Agnès Bihl...

The same year Charles Aznavour held two series of concerts in duo with his friend Liza Minnelli, at the Palais des Congrès in Paris and then at the Carnegie Hall in New York.

Duet with liza minelli
Square named after Charles Aznavour
In 2001, in recognition of his commitment and support, the authorities named a square in the center of Yerevan, the Armenian capital, after Charles Aznavour.

Charles Aznavour statue in gyumri
They also put a statue of him in Gyumri, one of the cities most affected by the devastating earthquake.

The first autobiographical book
In total, Aznavour published 14 books, most of them autobiographical.
In 2003 Aznavour published his first autobiographical book, “Le Temps des avants”, which gained considerable bookstore success (250,000 copies sold).
National hero of Armenia
In 2008 Charles Aznavour was granted Armenian citizenship by the Armenian Government, and a year later accepted the position as an Ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland.

He also served as a Permanent Representative of Armenia to UNESCO in Paris.
In 2004, he received the title of National Hero of Armenia, the highest honor of the country of his origin.
Together with his son Nicolas Aznavour, Charles Aznavour co-founded the Aznavour Foundation to be able to continue his humanitarian work in a more systematic way.

Today the Foundation actively implements projects in different areas and is being led by Nicolas and his wife Kristina.
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
On August 24, 2017 Charles was honored with the 2,618th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The "Raoul Wallenberg" awarded to Aida and Charles Aznavour
The star was awarded in the category of Live Performance at 6225 Hollywood Boulevard next to the historic Pantages Theater.

In 2017 the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) bestowed the “Raoul Wallenberg Medal” upon the siblings Aida and Charles Aznavour.

This prestigious award was a token of recognition to the Aznavour family, mother Knar, father Mischa and their aforementioned daughter and son, who during the dark days of the Nazi occupation in France, reached-out to those persecuted by the Nazis.

Last Two
In the spring of 2018, Charles Aznavour had an accident. Against all odds, Charles Aznavour managed the feat of getting back on stage after 5 months of immobilization and cancellation of his concerts.

His last two concerts took place in Japan on September 17 and 19.

Charles Aznavour
passed away
Charles Aznavour passed away on October 1st 2018 at the age of 94, at his beloved home in Mouries in southeastern France.
October 1st
His passing was perceived as a personal loss for millions of people around the world. Many tribute events were organized in different countries by local communities and devoted fans.
As a culmination of all those ceremonies, France bid adieu to the legendary French-Armenian artist and humanitarian Charles Aznavour in a solemn ceremony at Les Invalides in Paris, with the French President and Armenian Prime Minister delivering their eulogies.
That tribute reflected the late singer’s status as a national icon at home as well as the country of his roots, Armenia.
French President Macron said,
“In France, poets never die,”
standing before the coffin draped in France’s blue-white-and-red flag. Alongside the casket lay a wreath in the colors of Armenia. The legendary French singer was buried in the Aznavour family’s plot in the cemetery in Montfort-l'Amaury, west of Paris.
Aznavour has attracted legions of international and multicultural fans.
With millions of fans worldwide, world beloved artist and singing sensation Charles
His popularity transcends many generations.
During his career spanning more than 85 years, Charles Aznavour recorded 1,400 songs
In 9 languages, produced 91 original studio albums and sold over 200 million records.
Many of his records have gone Platinum and Gold. In addition to music,
Aznavour is credited in over 90 movies.
With millions of fans worldwide, world beloved artist and singing sensation Charles Aznavour has attracted legions of international and multicultural fans. His popularity transcends many generations.

During his career spanning more than 85 years, Charles Aznavour recorded 1,400 songs in 9 languages, produced 91 original studio albums and sold over 200 million records. Many of his records have gone Platinum and Gold. In addition to music, Aznavour is credited in over 90 movies.