Legendary crooner Tony Bennett, whose career spanned seven decades and generations of moviegoers, has died at the age of 96.
Bennett died in New York. In February 2021, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years earlier.
Winner of 20 Grammy Awards – including a Lifetime Achievement presented in 2001 – he won his final trophy in April 2022 for his work with Lady Gaga on the album Love for Sale, their second collaboration together.
Bennett has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, including his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” recorded in 1962.
In 1956 he hosted The Tony Bennett Show a Saturday night variety show for NBC, was a summer replacement for The Perry Como Show. Guests included The Mills Brothers, Jack Durant, George Reeves, Judy Canova and The Spellbinders. It ran for 5 episodes.
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in 1926 in the Queens borough of Long Island City, he would later be drafted into the United States Army in 1944, serving on the front lines in France and Germany and helping to liberate a concentration camp. He remained in Europe after World War II singing with a special service band until his discharge in 1946.
In 1949, Pearl Bailey recognized his talent and asked him to open for her in Greenwich Village. Bob Hope saw him, took him on a trip and encouraged him to change his name. Conductor Mitch Miller warned him not to imitate Frank Sinatra, so Bennett began his career as a commercial pop crooner.
He would go on to make countless television appearances including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Merv Griffin Show, Dinah!, Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, more Super Bowl, American Idol, X Factor UK, Parkinson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, The Simpsons, Muppets Tonight, 30 Rock, Blue Bloods, Entourage, Remington Steele, Suddenly Susan, Evening Shade, Cosby, The Doris Day Show, (acting on) 77 Sunset Strip, The Mike Walsh Show, Rove Live and the Logie Awards.
He was also a repeat host and winner of the Grammy Awards while its 1994 MTV disconnected saw him reach new audiences, followed by subsequent collaborations for Duets: An American Classic, Duets II, Viva Duets, and several projects with Lady Gaga, including her latest album, Love for sale in 2021.
A television special, One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga debuted in 2021, while his last ever televised performance was with Gaga in December 2021, on MTV disconnected.
Bennett has amassed many accolades throughout his career, including 20 Grammy Awardsa Lifetime Achievement Award and two Primetime Awards Emmy Awards. He was named a NEA Jazz Master and Kennedy Center Honoree and was the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, New York.
He never considered retirement, saying, “As George Burns said, ‘Retire for what?’ You should do what you really enjoy doing, that you love to do, and then keep moving forward. The more you keep learning, the more life becomes important and makes you live longer.