R.I.P. Tony Bennett: American landmark dies at 96

He collaborated with the greats of the history of pop music, from Rosemary Clooney and Count Basie to Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga.

Tony Bennett was a monument, but never a relic. He collaborated with the history of pop music, from Rosemary Clooney and Count Basie to Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. As a symbol, he represented old, glamorous show biz and unparalleled longevity. As a singer, he soundtracked eight decades with his warm, inviting vocal quality. As his once-soaring voice aged, it developed a friendly gravel that delivered each note with expressive bravado.

Bennett will be remembered alongside his signature song "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," but his legacy will stay forever linked with New York City. His voice was that first sight at the skyline, followed by a cocktail in a Manhattan hotel bar. Frank Sinatra called him the greatest popular vocalist in the world. 

Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in Astoria, Queens, New York on Aug. 3, 1926, to Italian immigrant parents. He studied singing and painting at the High School of Industrial Art before being drafted into World War II in 1944. After returning from conflict in the European theater, Benedetto sang with the Armed Forces band. 

An early, successful television appearance led to a gig opening for performances at a Greenwich Village club. There, he caught the attention of Bob Hope. Hope rechristened the young singer "Tony Bennett," and a star was born. A contract with Columbia Records followed, as did a string of hits like "Cold, Cold Heart," "Because of You," and "Rags to Riches."

Bennett's career had many peaks and valleys. He left Columbia in 1971 after a series of unremarkable singles, bristling as the label insisted his sound changed with the world around him. After a six-year stint managing his own label, Improv, Bennett was soon also without a manager. Plagued by the I.R.S. and personal issues, Tony was then joined by son Danny Bennett, who assumed the management of his father's career, revitalizing the singer for the start of a new decade. The '80s saw a revitalization, with television appearances on "The David Letterman Show" and the MTV Video Music Awards. 

The youth-oriented network brought a new audience to Tony Bennett's music. While the singer continued to rack up Grammys for his traditional vocal albums, "MTV Unplugged" provided an unprecedented generational bridge, allowing this new crowd to hear not only Bennett's songs but also the stories behind them. He released 70 albums over the course of his career.

At 96, Tony Bennett still had not overstayed his welcome. Although he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, Bennett continued to perform regularly. His final public appearance was in August 2021, when he performed at Radio City Music Hall with Lady Gaga. 

The legendary crooner passed away on July 21, 2023, at his home in New York City. Tony Bennett is survived by his wife Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, his daughters Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett, and his nine grandchildren.

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23 Comments

Lantern 10 months ago
The "personal issues" he was plagued with in the 70s was cocaine use. Hard to believe he got involved in that; fortunately he was able to turn away from it.
trogg888 10 months ago
Even though i started playing in a cover band in the 60s an played things like hendrix and d beatles, my parents had me in their 30s so we had tonys and franks albumns around the house and i probably learned more about singing listening to them and mo town artists than anyone else.his voice was so dynamic and subtle at the same time.a great talent.
vikkr 10 months ago
A beautiful soul, a class act. So glad we got to see him a few years ago in Melbourne, Florida. He will be missed that is for sure. R.I.P.
FLETCH 10 months ago
Nicely written.

RIP Anthony
AlexMaryRain 10 months ago
I would love to watch the tribute to Tony Bennett but won't be able to because the people who control the Boston channel are STUID!! The replace Ed Sullivan with the news which is also on their regular channel.
Emmaline AlexMaryRain 10 months ago
I agree! I want to watch Ed Sullivan!
Runeshaper 10 months ago
R.I.P. Tony Bennett. He was a true legend. Listened to him a lot in my life, especially during the high times of COVID. Thanks for all that you’ve given us, Tony. I hope to see you up there someday, pal.
10john10 10 months ago
He was truly more of a "lounge singer" than many of his contemporaries. An orchestra would overwhelm his voice? Tony Bennett and Mel Brooks were guests on the first Tonight Show hosted by Johnny Carson in 1962.
teire 10john10 10 months ago
I saw him perform with a 41-piece orchestra at Radio City. And well into his 80s he would sing an a cappella number to showcase the acoustics of the venue, including at Radio City and Carnegie Hall.
Peter_Falk_Fan teire 10 months ago
“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.” - Frank Sinatra, Life magazine, 1965

'Stranger in Paradise' is one of my favorites that he sang.
R.I.P. Tony Bennett, a classic American crooner
LoveMy60s 10john10 10 months ago
Bennett had a softer tone, similar to the likes of Mel Torme or Peggy Lee. He was well suited for jazz influenced arrangements, or even A cappella. He often performed with a simple jazz trio. So if you prefer the likes of Sinatra, Fitsgerald, Darin and Damone...that would be understandable.
Maverick66 10 months ago
My favorite of all the crooners. Better than even Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
justjeff 10 months ago
I had to smile when I saw an odler picture of Tony with Stevie Wonder. Wonder did a remake (*not* a cover*) of Bennett's "For Once in My Life" as an up-tempo R&B Motown classic, so the two singers shared that song as a hit.

For the unitiated (like those who call vocal groups "bands" and remakes "covers")... A cover is when you race into the studio to get your version of a song out faster than another artist and beat him or her to the charts within days or weeks of release. A remake is revisiting a song some time afterward and recording your version of it...

Remake Example:
"Cry to Me" - Solomon Burke - 1962 - Bertty Harris - 1963
Cover Example:
"You Cheated" - The Shields/The Slades - both charted in August of 1958
cperrynaples justjeff 10 months ago
Yes, Bennett covered many other singers, but always found a way to reinvent the songs! One of his first singles was a cover of "Cold Cold Heart" by Hank Williams!
justjeff cperrynaples 10 months ago
There's a "gray area" when it comes to pop records covering country songs. While not as reprehensible as covering black music (in order to prevent the black artists from enjoying chart success) they both served a purpose [for their time] of presenting music of different genres to a "White audience".

However, some of those "White covers" of R&B hits were so insipid they *never* get airplay nowadays (such as Pat Boone's cover of "Long Tall Sally" or Ricky Nelson's "I'm Walkin'")...

Funny thing though, during the last years of his life, Nelson toured with an oldies show and had Fats Domino as the closing act. They performed "I'm Walkin'" together. Time can often change things in unusual ways... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWfsJx1ycY0
LoveMy60s justjeff 10 months ago
In their day of the "Hit Parade" and beyond, most of the great performers were recording songs by professional songwriters and/or at their label's request. Johnny Mercer and Mel Torme are two who did write and perform some future "standards".
justjeff LoveMy60s 10 months ago
"Tin Pan Alley" songwriters have always factored into the music scene, but a number of "modern standards" were written by artists of the 1950s and 1960s. "In the Still of the Nite" by Fred Paris of The Five Satins is one of the most requested oldies of all time, 68 years after it was first recorded.

"Unchained Melody" was written in 1955 by Hy Zaret and Alex North as the theme of a long-forgotten prison film. It was Bobby Hatfield (of the Righteous Brothers) who turned his rendition into a true standard.

"My Way", with English lyrics by Paul Anka was turned into a modern standard by Frank Sinatra. Anka started his career as a teen singer in 1956 but was also known as an accomplished songwriter...
LoveMy60s justjeff 10 months ago
Tin Pan Alley: Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter... Their names are prolific!
cperrynaples 10 months ago
At least the angels get to hear a great performer! RIP Tony Bennett!
teire 10 months ago
My favorite performer, have seen him in concert many times beginning in the 90s. His appearances on old sitcoms (the Danny Thomas and Doris Day shows come to mind) are fun to watch. He was a gift.
cperrynaples teire 10 months ago
Yes, and let's never forget Alec Baldwin's dead on impersonation! Would you believe Bennett appeared on 77 Sunset Strip? Sadly, it was one of those sixth season episodes and he didn't sing!
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
R.I.P. Tony Bennett. An Icon, A legend. Thank You for all your contributions to the Entertainment Industry over the years. Condolences to his family and friends.
AllisonWunderland 10 months ago
What a Legend!!!! I remember watching him with my parents way back in the day…RIP Tony 🙏🏻 You will be missed, but never forgotten.
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