Charles Aznavour: ‘Life Is A Very Great Gamble’


EVIDENTALLY DETROITERS would rather watch football games on TV on a Sunday afternoon than go put to see Charles Aznavour at the Masonic AuditoriumAlthough there weren’t many people out to see the 43-year-old French singing star Sunday, he enchanted those in the audience.

Aznavour himself said in an interview before his performance that the number of people in the audience isn’t important to him. “What is important,” he explained in his French accent, “is to know how many people will have been happy to see the show.”

Aznavour who has played twice before to packed houses at the University of Detroit regards playing the Masonic as an experiment because he thinks the college audiences remain constant.

It’s the challenge of building a new following that intrigues him. “I experiment to build something,” he said. “I’m first in Europe and that brings nothing exciting anymore.”

WHILE AZNAVOUR writes his songs mostly about love, it’s not with the rosy-cheeked naivete that permeates so many American love songs. Rather he writes with the knowledge that love indeed does die, that tomorrow will come, and so one should love for now, accepting the inevitable fade-out of passion.

“I think life is like that,” Aznavour explains. “Nobody wants to face life — just a small group of people do. People would be much happier to face life. It’s better to know where we’re coming from and where we’re going to and in between enjoy… When you know that sadness exits, you enjoy much more the little things, the small things, the real things.”

Continuing with the same line of thought, he added, “I never take anything to build a false world for me. I don’t know LSD. I never took drugs. I don’t need it. I build up strength in my own mind.”

Aznavour, a philosopher-poet among songwriters, looks at “life as a great gamble for those not afraid.”

He thinks, though, that “most youngsters are afraid of the future.” Why? Because he says that in Europe fathers are too strong and in America mothers are too strong. Both are always forcing their children to do things and Aznavour believes this way they “kill a little bit of the personality of the child.”

Youth, as Aznavour sees it, is going through a romantic revolution much the same as they did in the last century. “Everything turns and goes back,” he said… “I don’t think youth is different now than it was before.”

THE ARTIST ALSO pointed out, “It’s the privilege of youth to dress as they want. It’s an internal revolution against rules. I think this is very important. When I was younger I was a revolutionary.”

As well as singing and songwriting, Aznavour also has acted in movies and is looking for a new one to do in France. “I’m looking for a strong story, not a commercial film,” he said. “I had many pictures which turned out to be commercial successes but I was happy and proud because in the beginning, they weren’t.”

He believes, “It’s easier in France for me to find the right character to play. Movie people in America have their idea of Aznavour. They picture the French man as a silly continental type of man with American type of comportment, what Americans think of French men with a silly mustache and beret. This is not true.”

When his current seven week American tour is finished, Aznavour goes to London and Belgium for performances before returning home. Does he miss France? “No,” he concludes. “My world is this empty dressing room, hotels, airports and new faces all the time.”

© Loraine AltermanDetroit Free Press, 14 November 1967

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