Aznavour is still young at heart

Updated: 2013-01-14 10:11

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Aznavour is still young at heart

Charles Aznavour, the iconic French singer, visits a mental health school in Shanghai. He says he would love to introduce French music to China. Provided to China Daily

Charles Aznavour watched the students playing and offered a helping hand when he saw anyone in difficulty.

Few at the mental health school in Shanghai's Yuyuan community realized he is an internationally renowned singer, songwriter and activist.

Aznavour, born in 1924, made his second trip to Shanghai in mid-December. It was a private trip, accompanied by his youngest son, but even so he was happy to set some time aside for a trip to Home of Sunshine.

He met 30 students who ranged in age from between 19 and 35 and when one of the teams had problems sucking at a slip of paper with a straw, Aznavour came to the rescue.

Aznavour is still young at heart

Traditions and celebrations 

"Some people retire, but he never will," says his son, Patrick, the youngest of five children.

Aznavour constantly hummed tunes as he strolled around and at 88, he's still touring, performing and composing.

He has just completed a tour of South America and will fly to Britain to record a new song next month.

Aznavour made his first visit to China in June, when he performed three songs at a gala dinner during the Shanghai International Film Festival.

"I have sung in 19 countries, and I'd love to introduce French music to China," he says.

Aznavour has been one of the most enduring singers in France, famed for his clear tenor voice and is often compared with Frank Sinatra.

He has acted in more than 60 movies and composed about 1,000 songs, in several languages.

Aznavour's parents were from Armenia, and he has been heavily involved in humanitarian and charity initiatives for the country. He is the ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland, as well as the UNESCO cultural ambassador for Armenia.

With an artistic career spanning more than 60 years, he has collaborated with many great artists, such as Sinatra, Edith Piaf, Fred Astaire, Andrea Bocelli, Elton John and others.

"He has a traditional way of singing, characterized by poetic lyrics and melodic music," Patrick says.

Aznavour is still young at heart

 Retail therapy

"He's an open book," says Prestige PR's Sarah el Asri, who organized his Shanghai trip. Listening to him singing is like sharing French musical history, she adds.

"He performs with a unique style. He's like an actor that sings, and his songs have inspired many artists."

On China's video sharing website, one of Aznavour's most popular videos sees him collaborating with Edith Piaf, produced through 3D digital imaging.

No, Piaf didn't help him with his career, comments Aznavour. "She used to promote her lovers, but I was only a friend."

"Lovers pass by, but friendships last longer," he says.