“New York: Tony Bennett last of classic American crooners dead at 96, whose constant cheerful disposition turned them into a hitmaker for generations over seven decades, passed away in New York on Friday. He was 96 years old.
In an era when big bands defined American pop music, Bennett started winning the hearts of young audiences in the 1990s, achieving an incredible second act not by re-establishing himself but by showcasing his joy in fulfilling the standards.
At the age of 88, Bennett became the oldest person to reach number one on the American album chart through a collection of duets with Lady Gaga in 2014, who became not only his friend but a touring partner as young stars vied to work with the legendary singer.
Bennett’s official Twitter account said in a message, “He was still singing on his piano the day before.”
The music, political, and acting worlds immediately poured in their condolences. Elton John wrote on Instagram, ”I loved him and idolized him.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement, “For more than 70 years, Tony Bennett was not just singing classics – he was a classic,” expressing his and his wife Jill Biden’s condolences to the loved ones and fans of the “timeless artist” who brought “joy.”
“Initially, Bennett tried to distance himself from artists like Frank Sinatra, but he eventually followed the path of earlier singers, performing in nightclubs, on television, and in films.”
However, his efforts soon came to an end. His gift was his presence on the stage. With a welcoming smile and a dapper suit, he sang with enthusiasm and a powerful, distinct voice.
“Starting with the recording of the film song ‘Because of You’ in 1951, Bennett sang dozens of hit songs, including ‘Rags to Riches,’ ‘Stranger in Paradise,’ and his signature tune, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco,’ earning him two out of 19 Grammy Awards.”
But the British invasion led by The Beatles initially affected the singer heavily, as their music suddenly appeared strange and outdated. In 1979, plagued by cocaine addiction, his career nearly ended before his revival.
“Bennett described his approach to the British culture magazine Clash. He said, ‘When rap or disco arrived with new fashion, I didn’t try to fit in with the entire musical scene.'”
“I just stayed myself and sang with integrity, and tried to be honest with myself… and fortunately, it worked. Tony Bennett – born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in the neighborhood of Astoria, Queens, New York – was the son of struggling Italian immigrants.”
“Bennett displayed his early talent as a performer when he was nine years old. It happened during a celebration in the company of the famous Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York.”
“But at age ten, his father passed away during the United States’ struggle to emerge from the Great Depression. This forced him to drop out of school and take on various jobs, such as singing and caricature painting at an Italian restaurant, which became his lifelong side career.”
As part of his punishment, Bennett was assigned the duty of digging graves for the dead. But after the allied countries won, Bennett was waiting to return home with fellow soldiers in Wiesbaden, Germany.
“The city’s opera house still stood, and an American army band broadcast a weekly show on military radio across Germany. As the band’s librarian, Bennett’s impressive voice earned him a place among four singers.”
“Bennett’s experiences made him a lifelong advocate for civil rights for African Americans. In 1965, he joined the march from Selma, Alabama, in support of voting rights for African Americans. He marched with civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.”
“Bennett was married three times and had four children. One of his children, Antonia Bennett, followed in his footsteps and became a singer and jazz standards interpreter.”
In the early 1990s, Bennett was appearing in music videos and warming up crowds at alternative rock festivals like Smashing Pumpkins. A decade later, he released three successful duet albums.
“He sang with Amy Winehouse on her final recording before her death at the age of 27 in 2011.”
“On his 90th birthday, Bennett celebrated with a star-studded music concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The concert was turned into a television special and an album.”
“In his last decade, Bennett toured the United States and Europe. He performed his final public show on March 11, 2020, in New Jersey before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Shortly after that, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. He kept his condition private for years.
“At the age of 95, Bennett celebrated his 95th birthday again at Radio City Music Hall with a music concert.
“You’ve been a good audience,” Bennett said before his encore. “I like this audience.”