ORLANDO, Fla. (Men’s Journal) — Pianist and songwriter Avo Uvezian passed away on Friday, March 24, at 91, leaving behind over seven decades of musical history, and a legacy of cigars.
He built a name for himself late in life as a jazz pianist who traveled the world playing with many of the greats, writing for one of them. Uvezian had traveled the world already by the time he hit it big. He played for the Shah of Iran, and before that spent a year in Baghdad. His band, the Lebanon boys, toured the Middle East until Uvezian found his way to America to attend Juilliard in the 1960s.
By then the accomplished pianist, who had been born in Lebanon in 1926, spoke a dozen languages, including Farsi, French, Turkish, and English. He once told Cigar Journal, “I usually count in Armenian in my head,” in 2015. “I find the best language to swear in is Turkish, and when dreaming of pretty women, French is the best language.”
But it was in the 1960s, and in English, that he finally got to write some melodies of his own. It was probably tough, trying to make the transition from performer to songwriter in his late thirties, but he had some good material. The first song to make it big was an enchanting melody, a tune called Broken Guitar. And, boy, did it make it big.
Uvezian was living in New York, but a friend knew a singer from New Jersey who was looking for new standards. The man’s name was Frank Sinatra. In 1966 Uvezian played Broken Guitars for Sinatra, who fell in love with the melody, but convinced Avo to throw out the title and the lyrics. He wrote new ones, and gave it a new title. He called it Strangers in the Night.