Tony Bennett has died aged 96.
The crooner – renowned for his performances with singers from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga – sold millions of records around the world and won 20 Grammys including a lifetime achievement award throughout his glittering career, which saw him perform and record after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016.
His publicist Sylvia Weiner confirmed the news of his passing on Friday (21.07.23), and said he died two weeks before his birthday.
The singer’s cause of death has not been shared but it is understood he passed away at his home in New York City.
Considered one of the America’s last great crooners, he released his first album in 1952 when he was in his mid-20s and charted in the US in every subsequent decade of his life.
He went public with his dementia diagnosis in 2021, declaring on social media: “Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s.”
Tony went on to perform his final shows, alongside Lady Gaga, later that year.
His career renaissance saw him land a No1 album at age 85.
Tony’s most famous peer Frank Sinatra called him the greatest popular singer in the world.
Variety said: “His recordings – most of them made for Columbia Records, which signed him in 1950 – were characterised by ebullience, immense warmth, vocal clarity and emotional openness.”
The publication also hailed him as a “gifted and technically accomplished interpreter of the Great American Songbook”.
After being most active as a recording artist from 1949, and becoming one of the top pop performers in the 1950s and early ’60s, Tony saw his career surge again in the 1990s and into the millennium under the management of his son Danny.
He memorably duetted on the ‘Body and Soul’ with Amy Winehouse, who considered him one of her heroes, and released a full-length duet album with Diana Krall and a pair of recordings with Lady Gaga.
His last public appearance came with Gaga, 37, at Radio City Music Hall in August 2021, two months before his last release, the Bennett-Gaga set ‘Love For Sale’ – a sequel to their chart-topping 2014 collaboration ‘Cheek to Cheek’.
His ‘MTV Unplugged’ album of 1994 was released when Tony was 67 and won a Grammy as album of the year.
He was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005 and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006.
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens, New York on 3 August, 1926, to Italian immigrant parents, he grew up in a poverty-stricken working-class household with his dad toiling as a greengrocer while his mum was a seamstress.
He began singing as a child, and studied music and his other lifelong love, painting, at New York’s High School of Industrial Art.
He was drafted aged 18 in 1944 and served in World War II’s European theatre, doing combat infantry duty and liberating a German concentration camp.
Tony then studied voice with Miriam Spier in the American Theatre Wing and an appearance on Arthur Godfrey’s talent show was one of his biggest breaks.
Singer Pearl Bailey hired him as a club opener on the back of his performance, while Bob Hope was in the Greenwich Village venue to catch the performance.
Taking the youthful vocalist under his wing, Bob rechristened him Tony Bennett and hired him for his stage show at New York’s Paramount Theatre.
His soaring rendition of ‘Rags to Riches’ from 1953 was memorably used in the opening credits of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster epic ‘Goodfellas’.
The crooner is survived by his wife Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, as well as his daughters Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett and nine grandchildren.