Tony Bennett, a well-known performer whose voice personified the American Songbook, has passed away. He was 96.
Bennett passed away in the early hours of Friday in New York City, according to a spokesperson for the singer. Despite receiving an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in 2016, he continued to occasionally give live performances and release new music despite his illness. Thanks to his second duet album with Lady Gaga, Love For Sale, he entered the Billboard Top 10 at the age of 95 in 2021. That same year, he also celebrated his retirement with two emotional performances at Radio City Music Hall.
In the 1950s, Bennett made his debut as a slick singer and rapidly became one of radio’s most well-liked hit-makers. He was a performer with a cosy nightclub aesthetic. That character followed him around. Like his well-tailored clothing, it was both age-appropriate and always stylish.
When he was 20 years old, he recorded his first sides, which included the song “St. James Infirmary Blues,” which was recorded in Germany just following World War II with a U.S. Army band.
He went by the name Tony Bennett, which Bob Hope gave him. However, he was actually born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in the Queens, New York, neighbourhood of Astoria. He was 10 when his father passed away. He eventually dropped out of high school and began picking up various jobs to support his family.
“I became a singing waiter in Astoria, Long Island,” Bennett said to WHYY’s Fresh Air in 1998. “And it was the only job that I said, ‘If I have to do this for the rest of my life, I’d be happy doing that.'”
Bennett mentioned in the interview that his father, an opera singer who enchanted his village in Italy, had started the family tradition of singing. “In Calabria,” the performer said, “he had a reputation for singing on top of the mountain. They loved him so much, that the entire valley would hear it.
On the G.I. Bill, Bennett himself studied opera, specifically the bel canto singing style. He claims that in order to find his own voice, a tutor advised him to imitate the phrasing of instrumentalists.