French-Armenian composer Georges Garvarentz was a prolific author of music for films and musical collaborator of Charles Aznavour.
He was born Diran Garvarentz on April 1, 1932, in Athens, Greece, to a family of Armenian immigrants. He received his elementary education in his birthplace. His father, poet and teacher Kevork Garvarentz, was a genocide survivor and the author of the well-known “March of the Volunteers” (Gamavoragan Kayle Yerk, popularly known as Harach Nahadag…).
After the occupation of Greece by the Axis forces (Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria) in 1941, the terrible economic situation forced the Garvarentz family to move to Italy via Vienna in 1942. They first settled in Venice, and then in Milan (1943). However, after Kevork Garvarentz’s sudden death in 1946, his widow moved to Paris with their two children.
Georges entered the Samuel-Moorat Armenian lyceum in Sevres and later studied at the Paris Conservatory, from where he graduated in 1952.
In 1956 Garvarentz met Charles Aznavour and started writing music for his lyrics. They wrote over 100 songs, including “Prends garde à toi” (1956), “Et pourtant” (1962), “Il faut saisir sa chance” (1962), “Retiens la nuit” (1962), “La plus belle pour aller danser” (1964), “Hier encore” (1964), “Paris au mois d'août” (1966), “Une vie d’amour” (1980). From the 1950s Aznavour and other star singers like Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Dalida, Gilbert Becaud, and Mireille Mathieu, interpreted Garvarentz’s more than 700 songs. His disc “Les plaisirs démodés” was edited in 350 versions and 23 million copies. He won the “Chansonnier” special award in 1964.
In 1965 the composer married Aznavour's sister, Aida Aznavourian, a singer herself.
Garvarentz also composed over 150 film scores, including scores for Un taxi pour Tobrouk (1960), Les Parisiennes (1962), The Devil and the Ten Commandments (1962), Le Rat d’Amérique (1963), That Man in Istanbul (1965), The Sultans (1966), Surcouf, le tigre des sept mers (1966), Triple Cross (1966), The Peking Medallion (1967), Caroline chérie (1968), They Came to Rob Las Vegas (1968), The Southern Star (1969), The Heist (1970), Love Me Strangely 1971), Someone Behind the Door (1971), The Pebbles of Etratat (1972), Murder in a Blue World (1973), Killer Force (1976), Teheran 43 (1981), Hambone and Hillie (1983), The Triumphs of a Man Called Horse (1983), Too Scared to Scream (1985), Yiddish Connection (1986), A Star for Two (1991), and Catorce estaciones (1991).
He was the author of a musical comedy, Deux anges sont venus, and an operetta, Douchka.
Garvarentz visited Armenia twice, in 1977 and 1988. His collaboration with his brother-in-law Aznavour also reflected their common Armenian roots. In 1975 they composed the song “Ils sont tombés” (They Fell), on the sixtieth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Thirteen years later, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of Armenia in December 1988, they composed “Pour toi, Arménie” (For You, Armenia), gathering a collection of well-known French singers for its release in video. The income from the song was entirely destined to the assistance for the victims.
In 1991 Garvarentz suffered a heart attack and his precarious health, which took him from one hospital to the other, did not stop him from composing. He passed away on March 19, 1993, at the hospital of Aubagne, near Marseilles.