Legendary jazz singer and pop crooner TONY BENNETT died today, Friday 21st July. His death was confirmed by his publicist Sylvia Weiner in a statement to the Associated Press. The statement said that he died in New York (his hometown) and no specific cause of death was given but Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.
He was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto to a family of poor Italian immigrants and after his father died he went out to work as a waiter and occasional singer – he was aged just 10 and eventually became known as the “Singing Waiter”. After fighting in Word War II, he returned to New York and recommenced his singing career, eventually scoring a no 1 pop hit in 1951 with ‘Because Of You’ on which he was billed as Joe Bari. After a name change, suggested by comedian Bob Hope, the hits continued – the biggest, of course, being 1962’s ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’.
With the so-called British pop invasion of the mid 60s, Bennett’s star waned and his career was beset with personal problems – the end of two marriages and drug addiction. However his career revived when he hired his son as his manager. He became a sort of elder stateman of the US music industry and his 1994’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ saw Bennett win the Grammy for album of the year. His series of duet albums were all critically acclaimed and he became so accepted by audiences of all ages that he played at Glastonbury in 1998.
Tony Bennett was also a supporter of the civil rights movement and took part in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches while also refusing to perform in apartheid-era South Africa.
It’s accepted that Bennet was one of the finest vocalists of the modern era. He enjoyed countless hits and jazz fans revere his work with people like Count Basie while his two albums with pianist Bill Evans are regarded as classics of intimate jazz.
We can offer no better tribute to the man than to quote Frank Sinatra who said in 1965 “For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.”