The coolest man in the world c. 1969
If like me, you were growing up in Cuba back in the 1960s, you would be well familiar with Charles Aznavour, the French singer. Said to have been "discovered" in his youth by the legendary Edith Piaf, he has been described as the French Frank Sinatra, which isn’t accurate at all ... but let’s not argue.
Over his very, very long career, Aznavour has sold more records than I have had hot dinners. He has sang in French, in English, Italian, Spanish … even Russian. Jazz, syrupy love songs, ballads about loss and despair, you name it. An amazing entertainer. For an unsophisticated boy in far-away Banes, he was the coolest man in the world. Period.
As a child, I remember listening with my parents to Aznavour songs on the Nocturno music program, which aired every night on Radio Progreso and was by far, the most popular radio program in all of Cuba back in those days. Until about 1969-1970, that is, when Fidel Castro decided everyone in Cuba had to go out and cut sugarcane to help with another one of his endless bizarre, inevitably ill-fated grand schemes, the Ten Million Tonne sugar harvest.
Even radio presenters had to go into the countryside and be good revolutionaries and cut sugarcane, so for a while there we had to stop listening to classic Aznavour tunes such as Feliz Aniversario, Venecia sin Ti and La Bohemia.
I am telling you all this because I have just read that in an interview with the Parisian daily Le Figaro (here in French), Aznavour revealed he is due to visit Cuba soon to record an album with Cuban pianist Chucho Valdéz.
Apparently, Charles has a thing about Cuban rhythms at the moment. However, this is not the first time he has had some Cuban involvement in his music: about four years ago, he recorded a duet with the late Compay Segundo, from Buena Vista Social Club fame. It was called Morir de Amor.
By the way, Aznavour is 82. And he is still a cool dude.