US singer Tony Bennett signs an autograph to a record in his loge on march 6, 1988 after the concert at the Stockholm "Börsen". (Photo by Bernt CLAESSON / PRESSENS BILD / AFP) (Photo by BERNT CLAESSON/PRESSENS BILD/AFP via Getty Images)
Tony Bennett: “The Last of His Kind” NYC Jazz Legend Dead at 96
Tony Bennett, the iconic pop and jazz singer hailing from New York, has passed away at the age of 96.
Famous for timeless classics like “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Body and Soul,” and “(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco,” Bennett’s musical legacy resonated with generations of listeners. His collaborations with stars such as Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin, and Frank Sinatra further solidified his position as one of the best singers in the industry.
Over the span of an illustrious eight-decade career, Bennett sold millions of records and earned an astounding 20 Grammy Awards, including a prestigious lifetime achievement accolade. His publicist, Sylvia Weiner, confirmed the news of his death to the Associated Press, revealing that the legendary singer passed away in his beloved hometown of New York. While no specific cause of death was disclosed, it is worth noting that Bennett had been living with Alzheimer’s disease since his diagnosis in 2016.
Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016
Tributes from fellow musicians and admirers poured in on social media as news of his passing spread. Singer Paul Young took to Twitter to pay his respects, acknowledging Bennett’s incredible live performances. George Takei, the Star Trek actor, hailed Bennett as “the last of his kind, a master of the American songbook,” expressing heartfelt farewells. Nile Rogers, the musician, extended his condolences to Bennett’s family and friends.
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto to Italian immigrant parents, Bennett faced adversity early on when his father’s death left the family in dire financial straits. As a teenager, he worked as a singing waiter before pursuing studies in music and painting at the School of Industrial Art in New York. His life took a dramatic turn when he was drafted into the US army during World War Two, an experience that deeply affected him.
After returning home, Bennett’s singing career began to flourish, eventually reaching new heights with the release of “Because of You” in 1951, which topped the charts. He became a teenage sensation and continued to make waves with hits like “Blue Velvet” and “Rags to Riches” throughout subsequent decades. Renowned for his timeless pop and big band hits, Bennett’s rendition of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1962 earned him two Grammy Awards.
Accolades Beyond Music
Beyond his musical talents, Bennett was a strong advocate for civil rights, participating in the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches and boycotting performances in apartheid-era South Africa.
However, with the emergence of the British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Bennett’s popularity dwindled in the late 1960s. He faced personal struggles, including two divorces and battles with drug addiction.
Nevertheless, a triumphant comeback awaited him in the 1980s and 1990s, during which he received numerous Grammy Awards. His 1986 album “The Art of Excellence” marked the start of his revival, followed by the chart-topping “Perfectly Frank,” a tribute to his musical inspiration, Frank Sinatra. Bennett’s 1994 MTV Unplugged album earned him another Grammy, reaffirming his enduring talent.
In a 2008 interview, Bennett expressed that he was not surprised by his renewed success, emphasizing that good music transcends age and categories. He believed in the timelessness of great songs penned by the finest songwriters.
Throughout his career, Bennett remained open to collaborations with younger artists, endearing himself to new generations. His joint album with Lady Gaga in 2014, “Cheek to Cheek,” even broke his own record as the oldest living act to top the US charts.
Amid his musical achievements, Bennett was also a passionate painter, with his artwork displayed in galleries. He contributed to the arts by founding the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in his hometown of Queens.
Tony Bennett is survived by his wife, Susan Crow, and four children: Danny, Dae, Joanna, and Antonia. As the world mourns the loss of this extraordinary talent, his timeless music and legacy will continue to inspire and touch the hearts of people for generations to come.