Classic Vocalist: Tony Bennett

Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born on August 3, 1926 in Astoria, Queens, New York.  He is now 83 and still singing in concerts today.

He sang at the age of 10 when he sang for the opening of the Triborough Bridge when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia officiated at the opening of the bridge.

He was drafted into the Army in November of 1944. Bennedetto would see much action during the war as he participated in house to house fighting as the Army rooted out German soldiers hiding in the houses.

While in Germany he experienced the wrath of his superiors when he dined with a black friend from the high school he had attended. He was demoted for being seen with a black man and transfered to another department.

He was present when the American army liberated a Nazi concentration camp. There was no easy duty for Bennedetto and he was in several life or death situations.

After returning from the war he would be known as Joe Bari and even made his first recording under that name. He is now in his seventh decade of being in the music industry.

Bob Hope would change his name to Tony Bennett in 1949 when he made an appearance with Hope. The next year in 1950 he would be signed to a Columbia Records recording contract with instructions not to imitate Frank Sinatra.

Allmusic.com has eight pages of short sound clips from songs Bennett has recorded:

http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:jifoxqt5ld6e~1~T31C

Tony Bennett in his younger days.
Tony Bennett in his younger days.

Because of You would become his first No.1 hit in September of 1951 and was followed by his cover of the Hank Williams hit Cold, Cold Heart which also went to No.1.

1953 would see his hit Rags to Riches reach No.1 on the chart. Then he was a victim of the emergence of rock and roll in the mid 1950’s when it became harder to reach the Top Ten and his songs were less markeable as teenagers rushed to record stores to buy hit songs recorded by singers like Elvis Presley and Pat Boone.

Bennett would sing on the first night of Johnny Carson’s Tonight show in October of 1962.

In 1962 he would first sing his signature song I Left My Heart In San Francisco which a perfect song to showcase the perfect phrasing of Bennett. The song would win him a Grammy Award for Best Record and Best Solo Male Performance.

He would then follow up with I Wanna Be Around which is a personal favorite of mine and Good Life.

Clive Davis of Columbia wanted Bennett to cover the popular rock songs of the era and Bennett tried it but was unsuccessful. He would wind up leaving the Columbia label and eventually tried starting his own label which would be named Improv.

It was not successful either and he had a drug problem like most singers in a time when musicians and drugs went hand in hand. His financial situation also got much worse during this time.

Singers like Harry Connick started recording standards of the past in the middle 1980’s and it was the opening Bennett needed to start recording the music he loved again.

Young people would be intrigued hearing this music since it hadn’t been heard much for several years. Bennett even appeared on MTV Unplugged and the album from that show went platinum and he was on top of the music world again at the age of 68.

He is not only a great singer but also is an accomplished artist and has sold some of his paintings for $80,000.

Frank Sinatra had this to say about Bennett:

“For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.”

Image result for tony bennett

Tony Bennett at his 90th birthday celebration in 2016.

He shows no signs of slowing down or retiring and will be starting a seven concert series in Brazil starting on October 21 and ending at the end of the month. He then returns to the United States for seven more shows before the end of the year.

At 83 Bennett still has it and plans to keep singing as long as physically possible.

Tony Bennett singing his signature song I Left My Heart In San Francisco on the Doris Day Show with Doris also singing while Tony plays the piano.

Tony singing For Once In My Life in 1968 which was 41 years ago and even back then was already in his third decade of recording music.

Tony has gone from singing at the bridge opening in New York City at the age of ten to being one of the best known recording artists in the world today 73 years later.

Nobody enjoys singing more than Tony Bennett and he is still active 60 years after signing his first recording contract in 1949.

 

My first thought is of Tony Bennett when I think of a professional singer and he has been true as possible to his music except when his recording company forced him to sing rock songs and caused him to eventually leave that label.

Best of all Tony has passed his music to the MTV generation which nobody in the music business envisioned.

If you ever have a chance to see Tony sing in person take advantage of the opportunity because he is still at the top of his game.

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

2 thoughts on “Classic Vocalist: Tony Bennett”

  1. Your assessement of Tony Bennett is one of the best I have read. That’s how you feel about him, however the article in Time is some what inaccurate. I like his style very much, except I don’t care for his Cold Cold Heart. Tthat is one and only Hank Williams and can’t be matched

  2. Cold Cold Heart has always seemed wrong for Tony Bennett. It just didn’t fit Tony’s style. It would be the same as Hank Williams singing I Left My Heart In San Francisco. Sometimes it is best to stay in one genre and not be jumping around. Guess Ray Charles is one of the few that can do it.

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