The man who was once Anthony Dominick Benedetto has died.
It was Bob Hope who suggested the singer become Tony Bennett, and he passed away this week at age 96, just two weeks shy of his birthday. Tony had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for some time, so this is likely a blessing. Still…
I will miss Tony Bennett, although we’ll have the benefit of listening to his vocal stylings via recordings. He was praised by many, including Frank Sinatra, who said, “For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.” Coming from the guy who championed phrasing and interpreting the composers’ words with such care, that’s pretty nice praise indeed!
Until Alzheimer’s stilled him, Tony kept chugging along without a thought to age. For heaven’s sake, at 88 years old, he broke his own record as the oldest living performer with a No. 1 album on Billboard’s 200 chart. It was for “Cheek to Cheek”, presenting duets with Lady Gaga.
Tony Bennett was never out of fashion. An internet article tells us: “After turning 60, an age when even the most popular artists often settle for just pleasing their older fans, Bennett and his son and manager, Danny, found creative ways to market the singer to the MTV Generation. He made guest appearances on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ and became a celebrity guest artist on ‘The Simpsons’. He wore a black T-shirt and sunglasses as a presenter with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the 1993 MTV Music Video Awards, and his own video of ‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ from his Grammy-winning Fred Astaire tribute album ended up on MTV’s hip ‘Buzz Bin’.”
And it was never about Tony: it was always about the music and the composers of the Great American Songbook. Also, it should not go unrecognized that the man was a great painter too, having an amazing talent for the visual arts.
I was fortunate to see Tony Bennett perform live. He included his iconic placing the microphone down on the stage floor at one point and singing a tune, with his voice filling the theatre, without the use of any amplification. It was masterful, spell binding.
We’re fortunate to have young guys like Matt Dusk and Michael Bublé coming along, but there will never be another Tony Bennett.
An era has passed.