Tony Bennett
Image: Getty Image

Tony Bennett, the legendary singer celebrated for epitomizing the American Songbook, has passed away at the age of 96.

The news of Bennett’s death was confirmed by a representative for the singer, who revealed that he peacefully passed away in New York City on Friday morning. Despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, Bennett continued to perform live and release new music, showing his unwavering passion for his craft. In 2021, at the remarkable age of 95, he achieved a place in the Billboard Top 10 with his second duet album alongside Lady Gaga, titled “Love For Sale.” The same year, he bid farewell to the stage with two heartfelt nights at Radio City Music Hall.

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., Bennett’s journey to stardom began when he was just 20 years old, cutting his first songs, including “St. James Infirmary Blues,” with a U.S. Army band in Germany after World War II.

Bennett’s smooth and suave vocals quickly made him one of radio’s favorite hit-makers in the 1950s. He possessed a showman’s charm and a nightclub sensibility, which he carried with him throughout his life. His tailored suits matched his timeless coolness, just like the music he created.

Initially, he pursued opera studies using the G.I. bill and was advised to find his own voice by emulating instrumentalists’ phrasing. Mitch Miller at Columbia Records discovered Bennett’s demo of “The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams,” leading to his signing in 1950 and the subsequent decade of incredible success with millions of record sales and numerous hits.

Despite being known for his crooner style, Bennett had a profound love for jazz. Though he hesitated to call himself a jazz singer, his innate sense of rhythm impressed the likes of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, who appreciated the jazz sensibility he brought to popular music.

In 1962, Bennett reached new heights in his career with the song “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” which became his signature tune, winning him two Grammy Awards and enduring on the charts for almost a year.

Throughout his superstar status, Bennett used his voice to support social causes, including civil rights. He bravely performed in Montgomery, Alabama, after the “Bloody Sunday” incident during the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

Despite the changing times and the rise of rock music, Bennett stuck to his beloved standards, even collaborating with jazz pianist Bill Evans on acclaimed albums. He continued to perform in smaller venues and made memorable appearances on various television shows, from The Muppet Show and David Letterman to The Simpsons and MTV.

In 1994, Bennett’s appearance on MTV Unplugged, featuring a cameo by k.d. lang, sparked a resurgence in his career, introducing his timeless voice to a new generation of fans. He went on to record remarkable duets with renowned artists, such as Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga, who became one of his biggest admirers.

For Bennett, music was life, and he attributed his longevity to the joy he found in every moment. His passion extended beyond singing, as he also expressed himself through painting landscapes and portraits, signing them “Antonio Benedetto.”

Source: npr

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