Tony Bennett, an award-winning pop vocalist whose professional career spanned eight decades, died on Friday morning. He was 96.
Bennett, who has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016; he was 90 years old at the time. Despite the diagnosis, he continued to perform and release music through 2021.
The greatest pop singer in the world, according to Frank Sinatra, he released numerous records throughout his career, most of which were with Columbia Records. Known for his vocal clarity and immense warmth, the singer is best known for the 1962 hit song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.
Some of his other well-known songs include “I Wanna Be Around”, “Perfectly Frank”, “Here’s To The Ladies”, “Steppin’ Out”, “Moonglow”, “A Wonderful World”, and “A Swingin’ Christmas.” He also collaborated with Lady Gaga on a number of titles including “Cheek to Cheek”, “I Get a Kick Out of You”, and “Love For Sale.”
Born on August 3, 1926, Bennett grew up listening to Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, and Judy Garland. At the age of 13, he began singing for money, performing as a singer-waiter. He later went to New York’s School of Industrial Art where he studied music and painting. However, he dropped out at the age of 16 to support his family.
After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he landed a record deal with Columbia Records after sending them a copy of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” He eventually released his first big hit, “Because of You”, which reached the top of the music pop charts, where it stayed for over two months.
By the ’50s, he had become one of the top recording artists in the world. His success ultimately continued until the early ’60s, after which he struggled with recording music. He did, however, start his own record label, Improv, through which he released a few songs including “What Is This Thing Called Love?”
He also collaborated with Bill Evans, a well-known jazz pianist on the albums Together Again and The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album.
Under the management of his son, his career ultimately surged again in the ’90s and through to the new millennium. In his later years, he also debuted with Amy Winehouse on the memorable “Body and Soul”. He also released a full-length album with Diana Krall.
His last public appearance was in August 2021, when he appeared on stage with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall.
He is survived by his wife, two sons, Dae and Danny Bennett, the former of whom previously managed his career, his daughters Antonia and Johanna, and nine grandchildren.