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French singer Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94, his spokesman said today
Aznavour, who was born Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in Paris to Armenian parents, sold more than 100 million records in 80 countries.
He was often described as France’s Frank Sinatra and was voted Entertainer of the Century by CNN and Time Online readers in 1998, edging out Elvis and Bob Dylan.
Aznavour began his career peddling his music to French artists of the 1940s and 1950s such as Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Trenet.
He discovered his talent for penning songs while performing in cabarets with partner Pierre Roche, with Roche playing the piano and Aznavour singing.
It was after World War Two that Piaf took notice of the duo and took them with her on a tour of the United States and Canda, with Aznavour composing some of her most popular hits.
Aznavour was born Chahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian in Paris in 1924, the younger of two children born to Armenian immigrants who fled to France.
His father was a singer who also worked as a cook and restaurant manager, and his mother was an actress and a seamstress.
Aznavour’s first public performances were at Armenian dances where his father and older sister Aida sang, and the young Charles danced.
His first acting role was as Emil and the Detectives at the age nine, and soon he was working as a film extra.
During the 1940s, he was one half of the Roche and Aznavour cabaret act, along with Pierre Roche.
By the 1960s, he was playing sell-out performances at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London, and appearing in films with actors including Marlon Brando and Richard Burton.
He was married three times – to Micheline Rugel in 1946, Evelyn Plessis in 1956, and finally Ulla Thorsell in 1967, and fathered six children.
His biggest hit was his 1974 single She, which was covered by Elvis Costello in 1999 for the romantic comedy Notting Hill.
President Emmanuel Macron was a big fan of Aznavour and sang many of his songs during karaoke nights with friends when he was a student, according to former classmates.
Aznavour had carried on performing into his nineties and recently returned from tour in Japan.
Among those paying tribute was Good Morning Britain co-host Piers Moegan, who interviewed him earlier this year.
He wrote on Twitter: "RIP Charles Aznavour, 94. One of the greatest singers the world has seen & such an intelligent, eloquent, graceful & charming man. Meeting & interviewing him a few months ago was a wonderful experience. He was everything I hoped he would be. What a life. Merci, Maestro."
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