"In music, one works without a net, and the success...comes from hard work.""
- Charles Aznavour
Struggle, hard times and heartbreak are often regarded as key components in artistic success stories. Paying the dues, so to speak, which suggests hardship, helps mold the artist, according to the old adage. And so it was with Charles Aznavour, a wisp of a man, of hoarse voice, and what ultimately proved to be immense songwriting skills.
The writer of a major catalog of songs, many with a flavor of "A sadness and melancholy, was a child of humble beginnings. He was born Varenegh Aznavourian in May 1924 in Paris, while his parents awaited a visa to the United States. His legacy was strictly musical. His father was an opera singer, and his mother an operetta "Soubrette," both of them Armenian, who were in France having fled massacres in Turkey.
While Charles and his sister Aida were raised in what was described as "an atmosphere bathed in music and poetry," grinding poverty in the immediate post-war world in France was a daily fact of life. The brother and sister were forced to abandon schooling to accept paying jobs playing children's roles in neighborhood theaters and singing in cafes. During one of these assignments, Charles first heard a recording by the immortal Maurice Chevalier, which made him think to himself, "I too will be a singer."
During World War II, as nominal head of the family (his father had joined the French army), Charles worked as a news vendor and later, as sales fell off, a black market operator. During the War too, Charles teamed up with Pierre Roche as a performing duo and finally, faced with a severe shortage of…