Franz Nicolay at The Paris Review:
When he passed away this week at the age of ninety-four, the singer, songwriter, and actor Charles Aznavour was still touring. He was a living link to the golden age of French chanson. As a young man, he had been maligned as short and ugly, an immigrant with a hoarse voice, but he became a protégée of Édith Piaf, and then a global star in his own right. While his success in the anglophone world never equaled his renown in other countries, he was, by any reckoning, one of the twentieth century’s most popular entertainers, often referred to as the French Sinatra (Aznavour sang with Sinatra on the latter’s Duets record). He sang in five languages, appeared in at least thirty films, wrote somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand songs, and sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide.
“I am popular because I am like everybody in France,” he told Lillian Ross in 1963. “My face is the face of anybody. My voice is the voice of anybody. My face is the face of their hope.”