Persons [ ] Charles Aznavour (1924-2018) | Montmartre, Paris, 1959 / Georges Ulmer / Edith Piaf / Jean Cocteau

Charles Aznavour, Montmartre,  Paris, 1959
Charles Aznavour in the streets of Montmartre in Paris, 1959

“That’s the city I was born in, grew older and got the fame. Paris has brought me up, but in some
time, you cannot live with your parents any longer. There comes an age, when you want a nature
instead of the city and crowds. Parisian statues are awesome, but its nature is not so fascinating.
However, there are some olive trees in my window. I changed the grey colour into green one.”

Charles Aznavour


Charles Aznavour in the streets of Montmartre in Paris, 1959

Charles Aznavour in the streets of Montmartre in Paris, 1959


Charles Aznavour walking down a street of Montmartre, Paris, 1959

Charles2BAznavourBy 15, he was singing in the nightclubs of Montparnasse. At 20, he formed a partnership with the pianist Pierre Roche, and started to write songs. “I didn’t think it would be very difficult to write one chorus and two verses.” His colleagues laughed, “But I came back with a song for [the singer-songwriter] Georges Ulmer.” The lyric was J’ai bu – a slangy, maudlin love song – and it was a hit. “We won the prize for best record of the year. We started very early to win prizes. More prizes than money.” (…)

Georges Ulmer, J’ai bu, 1946

Charles Aznavour, 1944 >

That changed in 1946, when the 22-year-old Aznavour was spotted by Edith Piaf,
who invited him to tour with her in the US. “She never gave me any advice,” 
says Aznavour with a sly twinkle.

“She gave advice only to the men she loved. But I knew she loved my way
 of writing, and that gave me confidence. And she was very funny – not like
 she is shown in the movies.”


<  Michel Emer, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Micheline Dax, Roland Avellis, 1951


Eddie Constantine, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour

ScreenHunter 20332BOct.2B012B17.14

Manuel Litran, Charles Aznavour occurs on the scene of a Parisian club in a cellar, March 1956

Even after this early success, Aznavour notoriously remarked of himself: “My shortcomings 
are my voice, my height, my gestures, my lack of culture and education, my frankness and 
my lack of personality.” What prompted this brutal self-analysis?
“I wanted to know who I was. Before presenting yourself to the public, you have to know 
who you are. Your faults and your abilities – and often you should keep the faults, which 
can be very spectacular, and avoid some of the good things.
 Even now, I’m in search of who I am.”
Charles Aznavour, Charles Trenet and Jean Cocteau, 1950
The artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau said, “Before Aznavour, despair was unpopular.” 
The tradition of French chanson is notoriously melancholic, but Aznavour brought gritty street
drama to his lyrics and his performance. “When I write a song, it is as if I write a scene for 
movie,” he says. “The writing is very precise. If I find one word difficult, I don’t sleep 
for nights until I find the right one.

Aznavour at the Olympia music hall in Paris in 1971. Photograph: Michel Ginfray


“Travelling is much more important than performing. To meet other people, to see other cultures –
I’m a curious man. Curious because I want to learn, and curious because I’m a very special

Charles Aznavour

1 thought on “Persons [ ] Charles Aznavour (1924-2018) | Montmartre, Paris, 1959 / Georges Ulmer / Edith Piaf / Jean Cocteau

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *