Frank Sinatra, in 1965, said: “I think Tony Bennett is the best in the business.” “He moves me.” He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.”
Bennett died on Friday, aged 96. He had been battling Alzheimer’s for seven years.
Bennett’s recording career was surprisingly long and diverse for a man who began his career in the 1950s. He sang alongside American Songbook legends such as Count Basie and Ray Conniff. Bennett’s timeless jazz sense is partly responsible for his long and varied recording career, but he also invested himself in a song’s lyrics as few other singers could.
By the middle of the 1970s, he had fallen behind the times. In the 1980s, he had become indebted to the IRS and was almost broke. Bennett’s popularity and sales soared just before the 1990s began, thanks to his son Danny’s new management. Bennett released a series of theme albums that were endlessly entertaining, beginning with “The Art of Excellence”. He was accompanied by pianist Ralph Sharon on this album, who would go on to record with Bennett many times in the following 20 years.
Bennett’s renaissance in the 1990s was also highlighted by three tribute albums: “Perfectly Frank”, “Tony Bennett On Holiday” and “Bennett Sings Ellington Hot & Cool.”
Check out “The Art of Romance”, a 2004 album of romantic music. As Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit readers(tm) are aware, having Woods perform on even one track of your album can make it better by 40%. If he plays on the entire album, that number increases to 327%.
In 2002, he recorded a duet album with kd Lang of Louis Armstrong songs. They made this unlikely pairing work effortlessly.
I was a big fan of “Steppin’ Out” from 1993, which featured Bennett and Sharon performing songs that were either written by Fred Astaire himself or popularized by him. When I first saw this CD, I was either 24 or 25, and I was just beginning to expand my collection. I bought it, even though I had never heard of him, because I liked the cover and knew his name. Even today, I still listen to “Who Cares?” and “They Can’t Remove That from Me” as well as “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”
Bennett has been on my playlist for more than half his career. I can see how Bennett got old, but when did it happen to me?
Bennett released “The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern” in 2015. Bennett performed “Love For Sale,” as a duo with Lady Gaga, in 2021. He became the oldest person to ever reach number one on the charts.
He has won 19 Grammys, and sung for every president since Eisenhower up to Obama.
Bennett was an anti-gun control nut, but what does that matter? I didn’t purchase his albums for a lecture and he has never given one. He delivered single after single, album after album, and concert after concert, from 1952 to 2021.
I imagine him leaving today in the same way that I met him 30 years earlier — with a top hat and white tie.
Rest in peace.