Songs of 74: She / Charles Aznavour

This year Radioinfo will take you back 50 years to the songs that were released in 1974. It was a mighty fine year for music.

I have again changed my song selection as the events yesterday at Bondi Westfield are weighing heavily on my mind.

Charles Aznavour was born in Paris 100 years ago next month. His parents were Armenian immigrants who had a restaurant that was a hang out for actors and musicians. They and the environment he was surrounded by led him to drop out of school at age 9 to focus on music, and dancing.

I had no idea of the background of this remarkable man. During WWII his family hid Armenians and Jews in their Paris flat and Charles and his sister Aida were part of rescue activities. His 1972 song “Comme ils disent”, which was called “What makes a man” in English was written to support the LGBTIQ+ community and his involvement through his charity after the 1988 Armenian earthquake saw him receive in 2004 the nation’s highest award, becoming the National Hero of Armenia.

When Aznavour was 20 he happened to open for Edith Piaf. Piaf encouraged him to focus on the singing and helped him with his voice. He began to write songs and unbelievably could speak and sing in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian and Kabyle. This led to hits all over the world and, in the 60s a show at Carnegie Hall that was watched by Bob Dylan. Dylan (and many others) considered Aznavour one of the greatest artists of all time.

Aznavour was 50 when he wrote She with Herbert Kretzmer for a British TV show called Seven Faces of Woman. Herbert Kretzmer would go on to do the English language musical adaptation of Les Mis. Aznavour would also record She in French, Spanish, German and Italian. It was a UK No 1 and a relatively minor hit here.

In 1999 I sat in a cinema and watched superstar Julia Roberts open the movie Notting Hill accompanied by She. I thought it was Aznavour singing it and was astonished to find it was Elvis Costello! That version is amongst my favourites.

Charles Aznavour died in October 2018 aged 94. He toured and was vibrantly active in his charity work up until the September of that year.

I dedicate this song to NSW Police Inspector Amy Scott and to Ash Good, who did everything to save the life of her baby yesterday, and lost her own.

By Jen Seyderhelm – Radioinfo Writer, Editor and Music Trivia Buff.

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