Unsilent Generation has taken a break while principal James Ridgeway visits a friend in France. He’s still over there, but is now back at the computer and will be posting again soon.
In the meantime, here’s something from the grand old man of French music, Charles Aznavour. For members of the Silent Generation, Aznavour became an international epitome of cool for his chanson and his appearances in films like Truffaut’s 1960 classic Shoot the Piano Player. He began performing while he was still a child, was “discovered” by Edith Piaf, and has recorded more than a thousand songs over almost 70 years. In 1998 he was chosen as “Entertainer of the Century” in a CNN/Time contest, edging out Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
At age 85, Aznavour is still recording and touring. Interviewed by the New York Times in 2006, while performing at Radio City Music Hall, he said: “There are some people who grow old and others who just add years. I have added years, but I am not yet old.” Here’s more from that Times piece:
Even now, while best known around the world as a singer (he has also appeared in more than 50 French movies), Mr. Aznavour considers himself first and foremost a songwriter: he starts with the words, and only later does he or another composer add the melody and rhythm. For him the chanson française is quite simply the art of telling stories to music.
For material he has always counted on love and its pitfalls, but recent songs confirm that he is also ever-alert to what is topical.
“I don’t write stories like novels,” he said. “I don’t invent anything. I bring language to existing facts and events. I read all the newspapers. I watch all the news programs on television. I was the first to write about social issues like homosexuality and the deaf. In my new record I write about unrest in the suburbs, about ecology. I find real subjects and translate them into song.”
One recent record, “Le Voyage,” includes two songs about journalists: in “La Critique,” he snipes at critics and concludes that, “in the end, only the public is right”; and in “Un Mort Vivant,” or “A Living Death,” which he dedicated to Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal correspondent assassinated by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002, Mr. Aznavour pays tribute to reporters who risk their lives while seeking the truth.
And here is Aznavour performing “The Old-Fashioned Way” at Carnegie Hall in 1995, at age 71.
Posted by: Jean Casella