OTTAWA (July 1, 2008) — Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, announced today 75 new appointments to the Order of Canada. The new appointees include five Companions (C.C.), 26 Officers (O.C.), and 43 Members (C.M.), as well as one Honorary Officer. These appointments were made on the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Order of Canada.
Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.
Awarded for the first time in 1967, during Canada’s Centennial Year, the Order of Canada launched the creation of our country’s own system of honours. For more information on the Canadian honours system, please consult http://www.gg.ca/honours/index_e.asp.
Listed below are the sixteen artists who were awarded the Order of Canada this year.
Jocelyne Alloucherie, O.C., Montréal, Quebec, Officer of the Order of Canada
For her contributions to the visual arts as an internationally renowned sculptor.
Born in 1947 in Québec City, Jocelyne Alloucherie lives and works in Montréal. Since 1973, her numerous Canadian exhibitions have included shows at the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée du Québec and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, as well as at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. She acquired international recognition in the early 1990s with exhibitions at the Centre canadien d'art contemporain in New York, the Centre culturel canadien in Paris, and with the exhibitions Anninovanta in Bologna, Différentes Natures in Paris, and most recently, Cadres, Fenêtres, Lieux held in Bar-le-Duc in France.
Over the last 30 years Jocelyne Alloucherie's work has played an increasingly significant role in Canadian sculpture and installation art. Her work is rooted in intellectual rigor and clarity and defined by a very personal visual vocabulary and definition of space. Her exceptional body of work, often integrating drawing and photography into installations, has established Alloucherie as a seminal artist of her generation and has attracted important critical attention across Canada and abroad.
Randolph C. (Randy) Bachman, O.C., Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as an iconic Canadian rock musician and for his support of Canadian music as a producer of emerging Canadian artists.
Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Randy Bachman has become a legendary figure in the rock and roll world through his talents as a guitarist, songwriter, performer and producer. He has earned over 120 Gold and Platinum album/singles awards around the world for performing and producing. His songwriting has garnered him the coveted #1 spot on radio play lists in over 20 countries and he has amassed over 40 million records sold. His songs have been recorded by numerous other artists and placed in dozens of television, movie and commercial soundtracks. His music has provided a veritable soundtrack of the last thirty years of popular music.
Randy's career has been built upon his unstoppable drive to work at creating music. He has released numerous solo albums throughout his career, and has simultaneously worked at producing for other artists. His production/writing work with Canadian rock band Trooper generated gold and platinum record in the 1970's.
His love of guitar music and a desire to support some unsung and legendary guitar greats including his early mentor Lenny Breau, led him to found the jazz guitar record label Guitarchives which rescues and releases otherwise lost archival guitar music. As well he founded Ranbach Music, a label which releases archival Guess Who recordings, and other material which never made it to CD.
Randy Bachman continues to be in much demand as a songwriter, session player and solo artist. Though his music industry awards include dozens of coveted acknowledgments of legendary achievements, when asked which award is his most prized, he responds, "The one I haven't got yet."
He has played an integral role in the evolution and growth of the Canadian Music industry and continues to serve as both an inspiration and impetus for others to succeed.
AA Bronson, O.C., New York, N.Y., U.S.A. and Toronto, Ontario, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a solo artist and a member of General Idea who has influenced and inspired generations of his peers.
Born in Vancouver on June 16, 1946, AA Bronson lives and works in Toronto and New York. He lived and worked as part of the artists' group General Idea from 1969 until the deaths of his two partners in 1994. Since 1999, he has been responsible for numerous exhibitions, and has won at least seven awards, including the Governor General’s award for Visual and Media Arts.
Maria Campbell, O.C., S.O.M., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Officer of the Order of Canada
For her contributions to Canadian literature and media as a writer, playwright, filmmaker and educator, as well as for her advocacy of Métis and Aboriginal issues.
Born in northern Saskatchewan in 1940, Campbell is a fluent speaker of four languages: Cree, Michif, Saulteaux, and English.
With her searing 1973 novel Half-Breed, Maria Campbell exposed the brutal realities of life for Aboriginal women in Canada. It also revealed the angst, anguish, dislocation, and desperation of a nation impoverished economically and spiritually. People worldwide were shocked and saddened by the plight of Canada’s Métis. The novel became a catalyst for change. The Métis Nation saw a resurgence of cultural pride and awareness, Aboriginal women organised and reclaimed themselves, governments affirmed Métis political rights, and Aboriginal literature in Canada was born. Many Canadian Aboriginal authors have followed the path first blazed by Maria Campbell. The Métis grandmother is now the author of seven books and is an award-winning playwright. She has conducted writing workshops in community halls, friendship centres, libraries, tents, and cabins. Her writers’ camp at Gabriel’s Crossing – the old Gabriel Dumont homestead near Batoche, Saskatchewan – resulted in the 1991 anthology Achimoona, a collection of stories which showcased emerging Aboriginal authors. A noted lecturer and workshop facilitator, Ms. Campbell continues to work in the areas of community development, race relations, and creative writing. She was honoured with an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from the University of Regina and taught Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Maria Campbell received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for bringing the story of her people to the eyes and ears of the world.
George Elliott Clarke, O.C., O.N.S., Toronto, Ontario and Windsor, Nova Scotia, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a poet, professor and volunteer who has brought his original voice and his perspective on the Black experience to contemporary Canadian literature, and who has generously shared his time and talents with young and emerging writers.
George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1960, a seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq Amerindian heritage. Before joining the academic profession Clarke was employed in a variety of jobs: parliamentary aide, newspaper editor in Halifax and then Waterloo, social worker in Halifax, and legislative researcher. He still writes a column for the Halifax Herald and is a freelance contributor to numerous publications.
As a writer George Elliott Clarke has published in a variety of genres: verse collections, Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues, and Lush Dreams, Blue Exile, a verse-novel, Whylah Falls, two verse plays, Whylah Falls: The Play, and Beatrice Chancy. His opera Beatrice Chancy, with music by James Rolfe, has had four stage productions and a broadcast on CBC television. This powerful opera about slavery in the Nova Scotia of the early 1800s won great reviews and enthusiastic audiences. He wrote the screenplay for the feature film, One Heart Broken Into Song. The verse play, Whylah Falls, was staged in Venice in Italian. Clarke continues to publish poetry with Provençal Songs, Gold Indigoes, Blue and Illuminated Verse. His Execution Poems won the Governor General's Award for Poetry.
Clarke has been instrumental in promoting the work of writers of African descent, especially those of Nova Scotia. In 2002 he published, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature. In addition to being a poet, playwright and literary critic Clarke is the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto.
John N. Smith, O.C., Montréal, Quebec, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the Canadian film industry as a filmmaker whose works, such as The Boys of St. Vincent, Dieppe and Welcome to Canada, have touched audiences across Canada and around the world.
This earnest, socially conscious Canadian filmmaker gained international attention as the helmer and co-writer of the admirably controlled, intelligent yet ultimately devastating TV miniseries "The Boys of St. Vincent" (Canadian Broadcasting Company, 1993; shown in limited theatrical release in the US in 1994; aired on A&E cable network in 1995). A courageous investigation into the abuse of power, the film told the fact-inspired story of a orphanage in Newfoundland wherein young boys were physically and sexually assaulted by the Catholic brothers who administered the institution. Set in 1975, Part One chronicled the abuse and the collusion between the forces of Church, State and commerce that motivated a cover-up. Set 15 years later, Part Two depicted the emotional aftermath and long delayed legal process. Smith elicited strong naturalistic performances from the young boys and showcased a powerhouse portrayal of the driven and terrifying head of the orphanage by Canadian stage actor Henry Czerny. Though brooding and thoughtful, the film served as an effective Hollywood calling card for both director and star.
After earning his undergraduate degree in political philosophy, the Montreal native joined the CBC as a researcher in 1968, soon working his way up to become the producer of a public affairs program "The Way It Is" the following year. Leaving CBC, Smith began producing independent TV series including the Emmy-winning public affairs program, "The 51st State", for NYC's public TV station. He joined the National Film Board of Canada as a staff director in 1972, where he became known for his work in "alternative drama" which DAILY VARIETY described as "seemingly derived from the school of dramatized documentary popular in Hungary [in which the filmmakers] take non-professional actors and have them play roles very close to their own experiences." Improvisation and documentary techniques also characterized this style.
Often producing, scripting and editing the films he directed, Smith's Canadian output included the dance documentary "Gala" (1982), which showcased performances by seven leading dance companies, both modern and classical; the docudrama "The Masculine Mystique" (1984), which applied some of the stylistic conventions of women's movement agitprop to the then nascent men's movement (e.g., individual oral histories, group consciousness-raising and role-playing); the drama "Sitting in Limbo" (1986), about immature Black English-speaking teens coping with the new realities of encroaching adulthood in primarily French-speaking Montreal; and the crime docudrama "Train of Dreams" (1987), which told the disheartening story of a young repeat offender.
Smith's first Hollywood assignment was directing the Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer production, "Dangerous Minds" (1995). Based on Louanne Johnson's nonfiction account, "My Posse Don't Do Homework", the film told the story of a white, female former Marine (Michelle Pfeiffer) teaching high school English to largely minority students in an inner-city high school. Though the subject matter seemed well-attuned to Smith's interests and previous work, he had little part in the screenplay. So, while the film offered strong performances from a predominantly inexperienced cast, it lacked the subtlety and sophistication of "The Boys of St. Vincent". Behavioral pathologies were not contextualized within the larger social fabric, situations were simplified and the project took on the air of a "tough" liberal fairy tale. Nonetheless, due to canny marketing, a hit theme song and the glamorous Pfeiffer, "Dangerous Minds" was a surprising success that established its director in Hollywood. Smith subsequently helmed the made-for-cable movie "Sugartime" (HBO, 1995), which purportedly told the story of the romance of Mafia don Sam Giancana and nightclub singer Phyllis Maguire. While the film featured strong performances and boasted atmospheric sets, costumes and cinematography, it was derided by Maguire as pure fiction and met with a mixed critical reception.
Audrey Thomas, O.C., Galiano Island, British Columbia, Officer of the Order of Canada
For her contributions as one of our nation's most accomplished fiction writers, notably as a master of the short story, and as a revered teacher and mentor.
Short-story writer and novelist, Audrey Thomas (née Callahan) was born in Binghampton, New York in 1935. She received a B.A. from Smith College in 1957 and a M.A. in English from the University of British Columbia in 1963 where she worked towards a Ph.D. in Anglo-Saxon language and literature. Thomas married sculptor and art teacher, Ian Thomas whom she met during a year abroad at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. They immigrated to Canada in 1959, settled in British Columbia, and had three daughters. The Thomases lived for two years in Ghana where Ian Thomas taught from 1964 to 1966. Following her return to Vancouver, Audrey Thomas published her first collection of stories, Ten Green Bottles (1967), and then several novels: Mrs. Blood (1970), Songs My Mother Taught Me (1973), Latakia (1979), and Real Mothers (1981), a collection of stories. In her work, Thomas experiments with narrative method and use of language to depict women’s sense of emotional alienation, struggling with the dark side of the self, or hovering on the verge of disintegration. Thomas received the Marian Engel Award in 1987 and the Canada-Australia Literary Prize in 1990. She has won the B.C. Book Prize for fiction three times: for her novel Intertidal Life (1985), the short story collection Wild Blue Yonder (1991), and most recently for the novel Coming down from Wa (1995). She was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award and Commonwealth Literature Prize in 1996. Thomas has taught creative writing at the University of Victoria and at the University of British Columbia and has been writer-in-residence at Concordia University, at Simon Fraser University, among others. Thomas lives on Galiano Island, British Columbia.
W. Paul Thompson, O.C., Toronto, Ontario, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to Canadian theatre, notably for bringing the stories of ordinary Canadians to the stage, and for bringing theatre to the people through performances held in rural communities, as well as large cities, across the country.
Playwright/director born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island , in 1940, and from 1971-82 artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille, Paul Thompson worked and studied in France (1965-67) before returning to Canada and throwing himself into the process known as collective creation.
He has participated in several celebrated productions including: Doukhobors (1971), The Farm Show (1972), 1837: The Farmers' Revolt (1973), Les Maudits Anglais (1978), Maggie and Pierre (1979) as well as directing at Centaur Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects , Blyth Festival and Native Earth Performing Arts among many others.
From 1987 to 1991 he was director general of the National Theatre School and was involved with the renovations of the Monument National and initiating a playwrights' and directors' program there. He has also taught at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre.
He once said, "Once upon a time people said that you needed fifty thousand dollars to make something work, to build up a theatre, to do this, to do that - but we've found you can take eight actors and a designer to a community that doesn't know us...and spend six thousand dollars and come up with a show including a week of performances for those people."
His mark on Canadian theatrical history is indelible.
He now lives in Toronto.
Paul Bley, C.M., Cherry Valley, New York, U.S.A. and Montréal, Quebec, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a pioneering figure in avant-garde and free jazz, and for his influence on younger jazz pianists.
Bley gave violin recitals at age five. By age seven he was studying piano. He went through numerous classical teachers - including one Frenchman that had him play, balancing filled water glasses on the tops of his hands. At age 11 he graduated from the McGill Conservatory - having taken on their musical curriculum in addition to his public school education. Bley, who was known as "Buzzy" in his early adolescence, formed a band and played clubs and summer hotel jobs in the Laurentian Mountains at age 13. Four years later he replaced Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge. Bley founded the Montreal Jazz Workshop and brought Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Brew Moore and Alan Eager to Montreal inorder to perform with them.
In 1950 Bley left for New York City. He studied at the Julliard School of Music from 1950-54. While at Julliard, Bley had a band with Jackie MacLean, Donald Byrd, Arthur Taylor, Doug Watkins. In this period he toured with Lester Young, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge and Bill Harris. He was a frequent visitor at the famed Saturday night sessions at Lenny Tristano's studio. Bley served as president of the Associated Jazz Societies of New York in 1952, which led to Charlie Mingus hiring Bley to conduct his ensemble. Mingus also recorded Bley's debut album, along with himself and Art Blakey, on his label, Debut Records.
In 1957, Bley went to California where his bands included: Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgens, Bobby Hutchinson, Scotty LaFaro, Lawrence Marable, and Dave Pike. In 1959 Bley returned to New York, where he played with Roland Kirk, Oliver Nelson, and Jimmy Giuffre at the Five Spot Cafe. This group evolved into the Jimmy Giuffre 3, including Bley and Steve Swallow, which brought Bley to Europe for the first time in 1961. They recorded for Verve and CBS.
In 1963 Bley and Herbie Hancock were invited to play with the bands of Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, who were performing on a double bill on a Monday night at Birdland. Both pianists were offered both jobs. Hancock gave Bley first choice. Bley chose to join the Rollins quartet for a year to record and go to tour Japan. Bley's own trio with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian of the 1960's became the standard by which other trios would be measured.
In 1964, Bill Dixon invited Bley to become a member of the Jazz Composer's Guild, which included: Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins, John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd, Carla Bley, Mike Mantle, Cecil Taylor, and Burton Greene. By 1968 Bley was working with audio synthesis. He gave the first live performance to date on synthesizer at Philarmonic Hall in New York City. He released several synthesizer albums recorded on the original Arp 2500.
In 1972, Bley made his first solo piano recording for ECM records. In 1973 Bley met video artist, Carol Goss, and together they created Improvising Artists (IAI). In 1978 a Billboard Magazine cover story credited IAI for creating the first "music video", as a result of the recorded and live performance collaborations it produced between jazz musicians and video artists.
Bley continued his work with electric quartets. In 1974, IAI brought Jaco Pastorious to New York for his debut recording. Mysteriously, these sessions, produced Pat Metheney's debut recording as well. Though Metheney had never been hired to play with the band, he sat in at a gig prior to the recording date and then stayed with Bley's quartet, which also included drummer, Bruce Ditmas.
Bley has released close to 100 CD's. Some of the artists he's recorded with include: Ben Webster, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Giuffre, John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Bill Frisell, Chet Baker, Bill Connors, Steve Swallow, Gary Peacock, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Red Mitchell, Marc Johnson, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, Arild Andersen, Kent Carter, Barre Phillips, Paul Motian, Barry Altschul, Han Benninck, Billy Hart, Tony Oxley, Bruce Ditmas, Cecil McBee, Gary Burton, Marion Brown, Jane Bunnet, Hans Koch, John Surman, John Gilmore, Evan Parker, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, Herbie Spanier, and Bill Evans.
Peter Boneham, C.M., Gatineau, Quebec, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a leader and innovator in dance, notably as a choreographer, artistic director and creator of Le Groupe Dance Lab, a unique centre for research and development of contemporary dance.
In a career spanning over five decades, Peter Boneham has won international acclaim as the choreographer of over 40 works, inspired teacher of generations of dance artists, and co-founder of Le Groupe de la Place Royale, Canada's foremost modern experimental dance company. His most innovative and ongoing impact on the contemporary dance milieu has been as the visionary creator and director of Le Groupe Dance Lab, a unique choreographic research and development centre. After 16 years, the Dance Lab remains at the forefront of provincial, national and international choreographic centres, maintaining the highest integrity and artistic standards, allowing new dance to thrive, and nurturing some of the brightest talents in Canada and around the world.
Born in 1934 in Rochester, New York, Mr. Boneham became the lead dancer of the Mercury Ballet Company, one of the first civic ballet companies in the States. After working with several distinguished New York City companies, he moved to Canada in the early 1960s to join Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. In 1966, Jeanne Renaud formed Le Groupe de la Place Royale, with Mr. Boneham as Assistant Director. He assumed artistic directorship in 1971 and has remained at the helm since.
Dominic Champagne, C.M., Montréal, Quebec, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the performing arts as an author, director, producer, comedian and performing arts educator.
Author, stage director and artistic director of the Théâtre Il va sans dire, Dominic Champagne has written and staged more than ten productions, including Vacarme, Cabaret perdu (as past of a writing team), La caverne, L'asile, Don Quichotte (written in collaboration with Wajdi Mouawad), Korsakov, Lolita and Cabaret neiges noires (as part of a writing team). He earned great kudos for his sensational staging of L'Odyssée which he and Alexis Martin adapted from Homer's epic. For television, he has contributed to the series Les grands procès, collaborated in the creation of variety shows such as Les Jeux de la Francophonie, La Soirée des Masques and Le Spectacle de la Fête Nationale. He was also co-creator and artistic director of Le plaisir croît avec l'usage, and stage directed the magnificent Cirque du Soleil show, Varekai whose North American tour has thrilled audiences and earned excellent reviews. He partnered with René Richard Cyr to conceive and stage Zumanity before taking on the conception and staging of the Cirque de Soleil's universally acclaimed and most recent Las Vegas show, Love.
R. Gordon M. Macpherson, C.M., Burlington, Ontario, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions in the field of heraldry in Canada, and for his leadership in establishing Canada's international reputation in this field.
Gordon Macpherson is Canada's most well known and respected heraldic artist. Fascinated by heraldry since his student days, Macpherson has since designed and painted the coats of arms granted to many prominent Canadians. He was honoured by the Governor General with the title Niagara Herald Extraordinary in 1999. Gordon was also one of the founding founders of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and continues to remain active within the Society.
Ian W. McDougall, C.M., Victoria, British Columbia, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to classical and jazz music as a renowned trombonist and composer and as an innovative educator and mentor.
Ian McDougall was born in Calgary, Canada, and grew up in Victoria, leaving there in 1960 to tour in Great Britain with the John Dankworth Band. He returned to Canada in 1962 and began a lengthy career as a freelance player, composer and arranger in Vancouver and in Toronto where, until 1991, he was also the lead and solo trombonist with Rob McConnell's Juno and Grammy award-winning Boss Brass.
Two suites composed by Ian have been recorded by that group - The Pellet Suite, and The Blue Serge Suit(e) . Ian also was lead trombone and composer/arranger for The Brass Connection, who won the Juno award for best Jazz album in 1982. Since the early 1980's McDougall has become even more involved in composition, and his works have been performed by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Lafayette String Quartet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Rob McConnell Tentet, and the Toronto Cantata Chorus, among others.
Ian now resides in Victoria, where he continues to play, compose, and teach. He taught trombone, composition, and jazz studies at the University of Victoria, leaving there in 2003 as Professor Emeritus. Ian was awarded the University of Victoria's "Distinguished Alumni" award in 2004.The past decade has included tours in Canada and abroad, both as a soloist and with his groups, to Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Denmark, Holland, the USA, Germany, and England, where Ian was music director for two BBC Big Band broadcasts.
Over the years, Ian has been invited to be a performer and clinician at three International Trombone Association conventions, in Nashville, Rochester, and in Las Vegas. Also, in the past decade, Ian has been featured as leader on six CDs. His latest double CD is entitled "In a Sentimental Mood", and features the music of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington with Ian joined by his quartet.
Ian McDougall is a Yamaha artist/clinician, and he plays a 697Z model trombone.
T. Clayton Shields, C.M, Stratford, Ontario, Member of the Order of Canada
For more than three decades of service as the wigmaster to the Stratford Festival of Canada, where he developed innovative techniques and mentored new generations of artists.
José Verstappen, C.M., Surrey, British Columbia, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the promotion and vitality of early-period music in British Columbia, and for showcasing Canada within the international early music community.
José Verstappen, the executive director of Early Music Vancouver, is the coolest man around. Rain or shine, winter or summer, the man wears socked Birkenstocks. I swear I once saw him walking on 7th Avenue (near EMV's headquarters on Hodson Manor)in shoes because it was raining. Mr. Verstappen refutes my version categorically.
Verstappen, a Renaissance man (he does the web site design, the publicity, the typography, probably vacuums, too) with the help of that other Rennaissance man, Ray Nurse (baritone, lutenist, lute maker, etc) has steered the organization (for 26 years since its founding) into the success that it is today. EMV has brought the best baroque groups from around the world and employed local baroque musicians as teachers and performers in UBC's Vancouver Early Music Programme & Festival. Starting in smaller venues as the much maligned (I loved it!) Metropolitan Tabernacle, EMV can now routinely fill the Chan Centre.
But for me, Verstappen has pushed what many consider the normal boundary of the baroque period (the 18th Century) so that through groups like Ray Nurse's La Cetra we are now exploring Bach's early cantatas and listening to composers of the fantastic period of the 17th Century. With the help of local virtuoso violinist Marc Destrubé EMV is also exploring the period immediately after the baroque with performances of Mozart, Hayd, and Beethoven in period instruments.
Verstappen, the cool man, has brought us downloadable concert programs with extensive information on what you are going to listen to. His beautiful Early Music Vancouver Calendar (particularly useful as it runs from July of one year to June of he next) graces our fridge with the help of one stout Lee Valley magnet. But best of all EMV promotes the idea that young people should attend concerts. Any adult can bring a youth for free. I wish such organizations as Ballet BC and the VSO adopted similar plans.
The paradox, the wonderful paradox, is that thanks to José Verstappen and his EMV when I go to one of their concerts I am magically transported back to the time when this music was exciting and new and had never ever been played before.
Late happening adendum courtesy of José Verstappen: I need to indeed refute your comment on me wearing shoes because it was raining; the only occasion I sometimes forget my Birckenstock loyalty is when there is slush after a heavy snowfall.
- Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Charles Aznavour, O.C., Geneva, Switzerland, Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the Francophone culture as a singer, composer and actor and for his work which has helped establish important cultural ties between Canada and the rest of the French-speaking world.
Beloved French chanson entertainer Charles Aznavour, who wrote more than 800 songs, recorded more than 1,000 of them in French, English, German and Spanish and sold over 100 million records in all, was born Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian on May 22, 1924, in Paris, the younger of two children born to Armenian immigrants who fled to France following the Turkish massacre. His mother was a seamstress as well as an actress and his father was a baritone who sang in restaurants. Both Charles and his sister waited on tables where he performed. He delivered his first poetic recital while just a toddler. Within a few years later he had developed such a passion for singing/dancing, that he sold newspapers to earn money for lessons.
He took his first theatrical bow in the play "Emil and the Detectives" at age 9 and within a few years was working as a movie extra. He eventually quit school and toured France and Belgium as a boy singer/dancer with a traveling theatrical troupe while living the bohemian lifestyle. A popular performer at the Paris' Club de la Chanson, it was there that he was introduced in 1941 to the songwriter Pierre Roche. Together they developed names for themselves as a singing/writing cabaret and concert duo ("Roche and Aznamour"). A Parisian favorite, they became developed successful tours outside of France, including Canada. In the post WWII years Charles began appearing in films again, one of them as a singing croupier in Adieu chérie (1946).
Eventually Aznavour earned a sturdy reputation composing street-styled songs for other established musicians and singers, notably Édith Piaf, for whom he wrote the French version of the American hit "Jezebel". Heavily encouraged by her, he toured with her as both an opening act and lighting man. He lived with Piaf out of need for a time not as one of her many paramours. His mentor eventually persuaded him to perform solo (sans Roche) and he made several successful tours while scoring breakaway hits with the somber chanson songs "Sur ma vie" and "Parce que" and the notable and controversial "Après l'amour." In 1950, he gave the bittersweet song "Je Hais Les Dimanches" ["I Hate Sundays"] to chanteuse Juliette Gréco, which became a huge hit for her.
In the late 50s, Aznavour began to infiltrate films with more relish. Short and stubby in stature and excessively brash and brooding in nature, he was hardly leading man material but embraced his shortcomings nevertheless. Unwilling to let these faults deter him, he made a strong impressions with the comedy Une gosse sensass' (1957) and with Paris Music Hall (1957). He was also deeply affecting as the benevolent but despondent and ill-fated mental patient Heurtevent in Tête contre les murs, La (1959). A year later, Aznavour starred as piano player Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan in 'Francois Truffaut''s adaptation of the David Goodis' novel Tirez sur le pianiste (1960) [Shoot the Piano Player], which earned box-office kudos both in France and the United States. This sudden notoriety sparked an extensive tour abroad in the 1960s. Dubbed the "Frank Sinatra of France" and singing in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese), his touring would include sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall (1964) and London's Albert Hall (1967).
Aznavour served as actor and composer/music arranger for many films, including Gosse de Paris (1961), which he also co-wrote with director Marcel Martin, and the dramas Quatre vérités, Les (1962) [Three Fables of Love") and Caroline chérie (1968) [Dear Caroline]. The actor also embraced the title role in the TV series "Les Fables de la Fontaine" (1964), then starred in the popular musical "Monsieur Carnaval" (1965), in which he performed his hit song "La bohême."
His continental star continued to shine and Aznavour acted in films outside of France with more dubious results. While the sexy satire Candy (1968), with an international cast that included Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Ringo Starr, and epic adventure The Adventurers (1970) were considered huge misfires upon release, it still showed Aznavour off as a world-wide attraction. While he was also seen in the English drama _Games, The (1970), _Blockhouse, The (1973) and an umpteenth film version of Agatha Christie's Unbekannter rechnet ab, Ein (1974) [And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians], it was his music that kept him in the international limelight. Later films included Yiddish Connection (1986), which he co-wrote and provided music, and Maestro, Il (1989) with Malcolm McDowell; more recently he received kudos for his participation in the Canadian-French production Ararat (2002).
Films aside, hus chart-busting single "She" (1972-1974) went platinum in Britain. He also received thirty-seven gold albums in all. His most popular song in America, "Yesterday When I Was Young" has had renditions covered by everyone from Shirley Bassey to Julio Iglesias. In 1997, Aznavour received an honorary César Award. He has written three books, the memoirs "Aznavour By Aznavour" (1972), the song lyrics collection "Des mots à l'affiche" (1991) and a second memoir "Le temps des avants" (2003). A "Farewell Tour" was instigated in 2006 at age 82 and, health permitting, could last to 2010.
Married at least three times (some claim five) to Micheline Rugel, Evelyne Plessis and Ulla Thorsell, he is the father of six children (daughters Katia, Patricia and Seda Aznavour, and sons Misha, Nicholas and Patrick Aznavour).
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