Tony Bennett, the adored and cherished singer of our time, has passed away at the age of 96.
As the last of the extraordinary mid-century crooners, Bennett was hailed as one of the finest interpreters of the Great American Songbook. His close friend and peer, Frank Sinatra, regarded him as “the best singer in the business.” Throughout his illustrious career, Bennett’s renditions of jazz standards and captivating performances endeared him to audiences far and wide. He also popularized songs like “Rags to Riches” and his iconic anthem, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
His publicist Sylvia Weiner confirmed Bennett’s passing to AP, revealing that he died in his hometown of New York after battling Alzheimer’s disease since 2016.
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926, in Astoria, Queens, Bennett faced early hardships when his father passed away when he was just 10 years old. Raised by his mother, a seamstress, he developed a deep passion for music and idolized jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Despite dropping out of high school to support his family by working in a restaurant, he never abandoned his love for singing. In fact, he kick-started his music career as a singing waiter, an experience he fondly recalled as a great training ground for learning numerous songs.
World War II briefly interrupted his musical journey as he served in the US Army as an infantry rifleman. However, he still managed to entertain the troops as part of a band unit during his service.
After returning to civilian life, Bennett pursued singing studies at the American Theatre Wing. In 1950, he signed with Columbia Records, launching his remarkable career as a pop crooner. His first number one hit, “Rags to Riches,” in 1953 marked the beginning of an illustrious musical journey. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, though his genre fell out of favor with the rise of rock and roll, Bennett remained popular, captivating both longtime fans and younger generations with his timeless performances of classic standards.
In 1962, he recorded his now-iconic song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” winning a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. This accomplishment further solidified his status as a legendary artist.
Despite the changing music landscape, Bennett experienced a resurgence in the 1990s, appealing to the “MTV generation” and winning the prestigious Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Throughout the years, he continued to sell out concerts, release best-selling albums, and receive numerous accolades. His collaborations with younger music stars, including the 2006 album “Duets: An American Classic,” featuring artists like Elton John, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, and Bono, demonstrated his versatility and broad appeal.
Notably, Bennett also enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with pop superstar Lady Gaga. Their joint album, “Cheek to Cheek,” released in 2014, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and Bennett broke the world record as the oldest person to reach #1 on the charts with a new album.
In 2016, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurological condition associated with dementia and memory loss. Despite the diagnosis, Bennett persevered, continuing to perform as long as he could, inspiring many with his determination and strength.
At the age of 95, he released his final album, “Love For Sale,” another collaboration with Lady Gaga, paying tribute to Cole Porter. The duo performed two memorable concerts at the iconic Radio City Music Hall in New York, aptly named “One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga,” which were billed as his farewell performances. He subsequently announced his retirement, concluding a remarkable seven-decade-long career.
Throughout his prolific journey, Bennett released over 70 albums and sold more than 50 million records. His accolades included an impressive 20 Grammy Awards.
As we bid farewell to the incomparable Tony Bennett, one of the greatest singers of all time, we can take solace in the fact that his beautiful and timeless recordings will continue to live on forever.
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