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Tony Bennett's legacy

What shared connection binds Paul McCartney, Queen Latifah, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, k.d. lang, Bono, Billy Joel, Carrie Underwood, Judy Garland, John Legend, and Placido Domingo?

The list seems endless when we start enumerating the artists who have collaborated with Tony Bennett. His imprint on the music world is enduring and unmistakable.

Tony Bennett, who passed away at the age of 95 last Friday, has often been referred to as “the last of the great saloon singers of the mid-20th century”, a title bestowed upon him by Charles J. Gans for The Big Big News. However, this designation only partially describes Bennett’s legacy, as it implies a confinement to a specific time period. Tony Bennett was far more than that.

Bennett’s musical influence spanned multiple generations, a feat achieved by very few artists. His interpretations of the works of renowned songwriters such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and George Gershwin garnered adoration from older audiences. His strong, unwavering voice became a symbol of his artistic persistence. A lover and promoter of jazz, Bennett was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement alongside Rev. Martin Luther King.

Bennett also found a devoted audience among the younger generation, particularly those whose hearts resonated with the vibes of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, or the pulse of a modern dance club.

Ben Folds, the 56-year-old singer, credits Bennett’s appeal to the man himself, whose voice he described as “super kind, casual and in the moment.” Folds observed that Bennett’s music exuded a generosity and warmth that endeared him to his listeners, a quality that seemed missing in many of his contemporaries.

Many of Bennett’s late-career collaborations were due to the astute marketing strategy of his son and manager, Danny, who kept Bennett’s career thriving long after many of his contemporaries had retired. Despite this, none of his renowned duet partners felt obliged to collaborate with him – they did so out of genuine admiration.

Bennett’s gentle and tender approach to collaborations was particularly appreciated by artists like Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse, says Folds. His collaboration with Winehouse on “Body and Soul” was her last studio recording before her untimely death.

Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, and Bennett developed a close familial bond. Even as Alzheimer’s Disease took hold of Bennett, Gaga stood by him, honoring their shared love for music. Gaga even has a tattoo on her arm, a Bennett-signed image of Miles Davis’ trumpet.

Bennett’s collaborations with the vocally robust k.d. lang during the 1990s were memorable, to say the least. “He was a refuge for the American songbook,” lang told the Big Big News. “He would not sing any song that he didn’t love.”

Witnessing Bennett perform “New York State of Mind” with Billy Joel at Shea Stadium, one can truly appreciate his raw talent and captivating stage presence. Joel appears overjoyed by Bennett’s rendition of his song.

Despite battling Alzheimer’s, Bennett’s impeccable pitch remained intact as he flawlessly delivered a few bars of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at a San Francisco fundraiser.

Not only did Bennett stand out for his performance, but he was also recognized for his timeless elegance. He was always seen in a tailored suit or tuxedo. The Los Angeles Times noted that even amidst a pre-dawn earthquake in 1994, Bennett was the epitome of grace, donning a suit before joining the evacuees.

Music critic Jim Farber highlighted Bennett’s ability to adapt to contemporary styles without compromising his distinct sound. He always infused his unique musical sensibilities into any collaboration, never the reverse.

“Now they can carry a certain understanding that they received firsthand from him,” said lang, referencing a wide spectrum of singers from Gaga to Diana Krall to John Mayer.

Yet, it’s not just about the artists who have worked with Bennett. Writer Christine Passarella shared her own poignant memory of a Bennett concert in a Brooklyn park in the 1980s. She recalled how his performance was like being embraced by a familiar figure, invoking warm memories of her father. I share similar experiences.

Countless people across the globe remember sharing such intimate moments with loved ones, each of them filled with Bennett’s melodious voice.

That, ultimately, is a legacy that will always be treasured.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Tony Bennett’s legacy

Who are some of the artists that Tony Bennett collaborated with throughout his career?

Tony Bennett performed duets with a range of artists including Paul McCartney, Queen Latifah, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, k.d. lang, Bono, Billy Joel, Carrie Underwood, Judy Garland, John Legend, and Placido Domingo, among others.

What was one of Tony Bennett’s significant late-career duets?

One of Tony Bennett’s significant late-career duets was with Amy Winehouse on the song “Body and Soul.” This recording was Winehouse’s last studio recording before her death.

How did Tony Bennett maintain his career well into his later years?

Tony Bennett’s son and manager, Danny, played a pivotal role in managing and promoting Bennett’s career well into his later years. His marketing strategy often involved collaborations with other artists, which kept Bennett’s music relevant and appealing to a wide audience.

What is a noteworthy anecdote about Tony Bennett’s elegance and demeanor?

One notable story about Bennett’s elegance comes from an event during a pre-dawn earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994. Before joining other evacuees, Bennett took the time to change into a suit, highlighting his commitment to his signature classy demeanor.

How did Tony Bennett influence younger artists like Lady Gaga?

Tony Bennett had a profound influence on younger artists such as Lady Gaga. His gentle and tender approach to collaborations was appreciated by his fellow artists. Bennett’s influence went beyond music, fostering close relationships with artists like Lady Gaga, who viewed him as a family member.

What is Tony Bennett’s legacy in the music industry?

Tony Bennett’s legacy in the music industry is far-reaching and enduring. Not only did he leave his mark through his own music, but he also influenced a multitude of artists across generations. His music brought comfort and nostalgia to many listeners, creating shared memories and experiences that will be treasured for years to come.

More about Tony Bennett’s legacy

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8 comments

SammyG July 22, 2023 - 8:47 am

Bennet and Gaga’s duets were magic, pure magic. Sad to think we’ll never hear him sing again…

Reply
MusicLover91 July 22, 2023 - 10:13 am

Gosh, i never knew Tony worked with so many artists!! Truly a versatile talent.

Reply
GoldenOldies July 22, 2023 - 11:49 am

Bennett was a true gent, always classy. Changing into a suit during an earthquake, thats some level of dedication!

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JohnDoe456 July 22, 2023 - 12:19 pm

such a touching tribute to a real legend… Tony’s music will always be remembered, RIP.

Reply
NostalgiaQueen July 22, 2023 - 7:11 pm

His voice just takes me back, you know…it’s like a warm blanket. They don’t make em like Tony anymore.

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JazzFan101 July 23, 2023 - 12:45 am

Tony was a great ambassador for jazz! his impact will be felt for generations.

Reply
Songs4Life July 23, 2023 - 3:45 am

Seems like the greats are leaving us. first Aretha, then Prince, now Tony. End of an era guys… 🙁

Reply
LifeInTunes July 23, 2023 - 4:25 am

readin’ this makes me miss him even more. thanks for putting into words what many of us are feelin.

Reply

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