R.I.P Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett, renowned American singer famous for creating classic American songs like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” has passed away at the age of 96, just shy of his birthday. His death, confirmed by publicist Sylvia Weiner, occurred in his hometown of New York.

Bennett, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, was one of the great mid-20th-century saloon singers, with a lifelong aim of creating a timeless catalog of hits. His impressive career saw the release of over 70 albums and the receipt of 19 competitive Grammys, two of which were awarded before he reached his 60s.

Bennett had a unique style, preferring to let the music narrate the story rather than himself. He interpreted songs rather than embodying them, an approach that differed from his friend and mentor Frank Sinatra. Despite a calmer public life than Sinatra’s, Bennett charmed with his easy, refined demeanor and his distinctive voice, which he described as a “tenor who sings like a baritone.”

During his career, Bennett was showered with praise from his peers, including a laudable comment from Sinatra in a 1965 Life magazine interview who acclaimed Bennett as the best singer in the business. Bennett not only persevered through the rise of rock music but remained relevant and gained new fans and collaborators, including some young enough to be his grandchildren. His duets with Lady Gaga earned him the title of the oldest living performer with a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart at age 88.

In the early ’60s, Bennett was given his signature song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” when his career was experiencing a slump. The song became a grassroots phenomenon and earned Bennett his first two Grammys, including record of the year. Bennett’s career was revitalized in his 60s, with him and his son and manager, Danny, finding innovative ways to market his music to the younger generation.

Throughout his career, Bennett won Grammys for his tribute albums and for his collaborations with other singers. He was always appreciative of his peers in the industry, many of whom referred to him as “the master.” Despite being closely associated with San Francisco, Bennett’s true home was Astoria, the working-class community in the New York City borough of Queens. This is also the location of the “Fame”-style public high school, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which Bennett and his third wife, Susan Crow Benedetto, helped found in 2001.

Throughout his life, Bennett exhibited resilience and adaptability. Despite being on the verge of being dropped from Columbia Records in 1951, he managed to secure his first No. 1 on the pop charts with “Because of You.” He also navigated the changing music landscape successfully, venturing into jazz, participating in civil rights movements, and dealing with personal struggles. Despite his struggles, his music and influence have left a lasting legacy in the American music scene.