Tony Bennett, the legendary singer whose long career enjoyed a resurgence that extended into his 90s, has died.
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Bennett was 96.
His publicist confirmed his passing, according to the AP.
Bennett battled Alzheimer’s disease, but even after that diagnosis, he continued to perform, including a memorable series of final concerts in New York in 2021 where he was joined by Lady Gaga. An album with Gaga won two Grammy awards.
His career over a 70 year span suffered its ups and downs, particularly as musical tastes changed, but Bennett enjoyed a late resurgence in the 1990s. With over 70 albums, he won 19 Grammys, many of them late in life.
Bennett was active in the civil rights movement, joining with Harry Belafonte, who died earlier this year, in Montgomery, AL following Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL. They marched with Martin Luther King Jr., a moment that helped shift public opinion and rally passage of the Voting Rights Act.
He continued to speak out on social causes later in life, particularly on gun violence, and was close friends with Nancy Pelosi, traveling to Washington to attend her swearing in ceremony when she returned to the speakership in 2019.
Bennett’s endurance through generations was all the more unusual in that he didn’t change his musical style, and instead brought pop and jazz standards from the Great American Songbook to new audiences. One of his best known was I Left My Heart In San Francisco, which became one of the city’s anthems and was selected for the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2018. The previous year, when Bennett was recognized with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, he was feted by Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Josh Groban and others, and told the crowd, “I’ve performed all over the world, but this is the best I’ve ever felt on stage.”
Often cited was the praise that Bennett received from Frank Sinatra, a friend, who told Life magazine in 1965, “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.”
More to come.
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