“For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business,” Frank Sinatra said of the crooner in 1965 — a quote Bennett says changed his life. “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.”
Ol’ Blue Eyes got it right. And at 88, he still “moves” us, gaining new generations of fans with each release. With his latest album Cheek to Cheek, Bennett revisits his favorite catalogue of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook, including “Anything Goes, “It’s Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and, of course, the record’s title track “Check to Cheek.”
Tony Bennett has achieved longevity in life and career — a rare feat in today’s entertainment industry. In the last decade, Bennett has sold more than 10 million records. During his 60-year career, Bennett has won 17 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001) and two Emmy Awards, and named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree — not to mention the millions of records he’s sold worldwide and the platinum and gold albums to his credit.
In Cheek to Cheek, Bennett collaborates with what on the surface may seem an unlikely partner — Lady Gaga, famous for provocative fashion and chart-topping hits among Gen Yers. But Bennett saw something in Gaga beyond the outrageous costumes and performances — an artist.
Despite the 60-year age difference, the singers share a common love — of heritage (both are Italian) and of jazz.
“I’ve been singing jazz since I was a child and really wanted to show the authentic side of the genre,” said Lady Gaga. “We made an album of jazz classics, but it has a modern twist.”
As for Bennett, the jazz icon shares the same passion for the genre and the artistry of such American masters as Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and others.
“I have been singing the Great American Songbook my entire career, and all along forging a bridge between pop and jazz music,” said Bennett, who has collaborated with such legends as Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, Elton John, k.d. lang, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder among many others.
Listen to “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” track 4 from the Cheek to Cheek album.In 1995, I interviewed Tony Bennett, then on a 40-city international concert tour. When asked about his life and career, Bennett felt lucky because he knew what he wanted to do, “I always had a passion … for my singing and my painting … I’ve been very fortunate.”
As have we, Tony. As have we.
Read exclusive interviews with Tony Bennett from The Saturday Evening Post.
Find out why the singer once compared himself to Madonna in “Talking with Tony” by Patrick Perry.
See some of Tony Bennett’s best paintings, including a portrait of Duke Ellington, in “The Best of Both Worlds” by Holly Miller.
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