In advance of his concert July 1991 concert, I interviewed Bennett via phone. He told me, “I hope to perform until I die.”
Now at 92, he’s been true to his word. On November 28th, he performed at the 2018 Christmas TV Special at Rockefeller Center.
Near the end of our phone conversation, Bennett said I should come backstage after the show. I did. He was his gracious self. Did not act impatient with the amount of time we chatted (an hour).
Always polite, attentive, he promised to send me his latest CD released the day of his San Diego gig. Turned out to be a four-CD set containing 87 songs, complete with a large booklet with rare photos of him with others. He pointed out he would have his paintings on exhibit in La Jolla, coinciding with his San Diego concert For his art exhibits, he goes by his given name, Anthony Benedetto.
Back stage at his Humphreys Concert on San Diego’s Shelter Island, he let me stay as long as I wanted. Chatted for at least 20 minutes. (Above black & white photo depicts him at this concert. He was 65. In color, Bennett is now 92.)
Forever humble, Bennett would be the last to suggest he had anything to do with bridging the generation gap. He credits son Danny, his manager. At the time, Tony was referring to the Baby Boomers. He told me that “Danny is responsible for bringing in the younger audience…the Beatles crowd…And now I’m into the Rolling Stones. And he got me on Letterman and Second City TV.”
Born in 1926, he was raised in Queens, New York. He’s the son of grocer John Benedetto and seamstress Anna Suraci.
1949 – Performing with Pearl Bailey at a New York City club, he’s discovered by Bob Hope. Hope suggests that he adopt the stage name Tony Bennett.
1950 – Signs with Columbia Records. Has a string of hits including chart-toppers “Because of You” and “Rags to Riches” in the Fifties.
1963 – Wins Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male for “I Left my Heart in San Francisco.”
Bennett’s legend lives on. “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” was his original recording. He resides in a mansion in the city. Just last May 2018, the City of San Francisco named a street Tony Bennett Way.
His resume is never ending. It pays to be a good guy lots of talent.