Issue 572 : September 14, 2006
- September 20, 2006
BACKSTAGE WITH ... CHARLES
Photo: Emi Usa
by James Gavin
He’s 82 now, and though his crushed-velvet voice is as
graceful as ever, his eyes are wistful; they suggest a
dashing young lady-killer trapped inside a sage
grandfather. Charles Aznavour has been called the French
Frank Sinatra, but unlike Sinatra he writes almost
everything he sings. The songs tell of squandered youth and
the bruises suffered by the eternal romantic; through it
all he upholds love as the only reason for life. In 1998,
following a bout of ill health, Aznavour bid the stage
adieu with a worldwide tour (which included a month at New
York’s Marquis Theatre). The concerts continued for three
years; in France he never retired. But Aznavour is back, on
a long good-bye trail. This suavest of chansonniers spoke
to TONY before a rehearsal in Montreal.
Is this tour your
be my last one in the English-speaking countries. I have
many, many cities and countries to go to if I want to be
polite with my public. It will take at least three, four
years. After that I’m gonna start the Spanish-speaking
countries. Then I’m gonna sit down like an old writer and
write books. I had a best-seller [his 2003 memoir,
Le temps des
avants], and the
second book is coming along very well.
Why call it a
retirement at all?
The voice is
still okay, but who knows what it’s gonna be in a few
years? Who knows what kind of face I’m going to have? I’m
very careful to not give the impression that a has-been is
coming back because he wants to do more concerts.
You were under 40
when you wrote your most famous song, “Yesterday When I Was
Young.” Why were you so interested then in lost time and
Armenian, and because the family went through very
difficult moments in Turkey; we lost 80 percent of the
family there. Even though my parents never talked about
that, I had to write about things which were older than I
My friend Cindy, a
beautiful woman who worked as a model in the ’50s, says you
once tried to seduce her in an elevator.
that? It’s absolutely possible. It has to be before ’68. I
married in ’68.
Tell us something
good about getting older.
old—I aged. It’s different. The old man is the one who
abandons everything, the man who’s always talking about the
past and says, “Ah, it’s terrible today.” The man who
loses le regard de
understand? That’s an old man. An old man can be 30 years
Charles Aznavour plays Radio City Music Hall Monday 18 and