French singer Charles Aznavour, who rose to stardom under the wing of Edith Piaf and went on to steal the hearts of millions with decades of haunting love songs, has died at the age of 94, his spokeswoman said on Monday.
He died overnight at one of his homes in the southeast of France.
Aznavour — some called him a French Frank Sinatra — was born Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in Paris to Armenian parents.
He sold more than 100 million records in 80 countries, among them “She” and “Formidable”.
He began his career peddling his music to French artists of the 1940s and 1950s such as 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 Canada, with Aznavour composing some of her most popular hits.
The young Aznavour grew up on Paris’ Left Bank. His father was a singer who also worked as a cook and restaurant manager, and his mother was an actress.
In his autobiography, ““Aznavour by Aznavour”, he recalls that after a period when he tried playing the role of a tough guy, along with his teenage pals, he was goaded one evening into climbing on the bandstand to sing.
““There, I had a revelation. I saw that the girls looked at me much more, their eyes moist and their lips apart, than when I played a terror … I was only 15 or 16, but I understood,” he wrote.
Later in his life, fans would celebrate Aznavour for his mature storytelling ability and warbly voice which, while not considered beautiful, was rich in sensitivity and range.
“I have the kind of voice that gels with the type of songs I write,” wrote Aznavour in his biography.
His ability to perform in French, Spanish, English, Italian and German also helped.
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.