Editor’s Notice: Tony Bennett died Friday in Manhattan at age 96. He’s acknowledged as one of many best interpreters in historical past of traditional American songs who lately was found by a brand new technology by means of collaborations with Girl Gaga. WWD interviewed Bennett in November 2012 on the event of the discharge of a documentary about his life in addition to a brand new ebook. This can be a reprint of that article.
At 86, Tony Bennett may appear to have led a charmed life. In any case, he has acquired 17 Grammys; he was the oldest particular person in historical past, at 85, to have a number-one album, with “Duets II,” in 2011, and his newest CD, “Viva Duets,” that includes Bennett singing his traditional songs with Latin artists, was quantity 5 on the Billboard chart when it got here out. Then there’s “The Zen of Bennett,” a documentary by his son and supervisor Danny Bennett, which opened in restricted launch earlier this fall and might be obtainable on DVD Monday. There’s additionally his new ebook, “Life Is a Present: The Zen of Bennett,” with a foreword by Mitch Albom, due out Tuesday from HarperCollins.
However, there have been just a few bumps alongside the way in which. Bennett was drafted into the military as an infantryman towards the top of World Struggle II, and being on the entrance was “insufferable.” A lot later, after many hit information, he started to have problem together with his longtime label, Columbia, and left it to discovered his personal label, which failed. Two of his three marriages led to divorce. However since his sons, Danny and Dae, started working with him on his profession nearly 40 years in the past issues have improved exponentially.
“I’ve great kids,” says Bennett, who can also be an achieved painter. “When my two sons each noticed that I used to be in bother, they got here working at me and mentioned, ‘Simply maintain singing and portray, and we’ll handle all the things else.’ My one daughter, Antonia, sings with me on the stage; my different daughter, Johanna, is beginning a movie competition for me. I’ve my complete household in my enterprise, and ever since they got here on board, it simply straightened me out a lot that I’m a really contented particular person.”
His philosophy? As he advised his sons, “I like high quality. I at all times advised them that Woolworths went out of enterprise, however Tiffany nonetheless stays in enterprise. I simply lived my life that approach. I simply made certain that I keep myself.”
Bennett remembers how inspiring he discovered Fred Astaire’s on-screen dancing when he was a toddler. He observes that Cole Porter and Irving Berlin wished Astaire to debut their songs, and Astaire inaugurated, Bennett says, 230 songs now thought of a part of “The American Songbook.” A few years later, he had an opportunity to fulfill Astaire, who had written a music, “Life Is Stunning,” and wished Bennett to sing it. So he went over to the singer’s home in Los Angeles and, Bennett remembers, “Astaire mentioned to me, ‘I really like going to Hollywood events, however I’m retired now, and each lady says, “Mr. Astaire, simply do one dance with me.” They don’t notice that I’m not that energetic any extra, and I’ve to depart the social gathering.’” Bennett went upstairs to choose up the music for the music, and when he regarded out the window, he noticed Astaire dancing to a Large Joe Turner blues music. However when he walked in, Bennett says, “His pale face turned purple with embarrassment, and he mentioned, ‘Each time I hear that music, I’ve to bop.’”
One other extra fashionable star Bennett labored with was Amy Winehouse, whom he describes as “an ideal jazz singer.” For his eighty fifth birthday, Bennett deliberate to play the London Palladium, and he wished to ask her to carry out with him there and in addition to inform her to cease consuming and taking medicine, however then he acquired “a tragic telephone name” from one in every of his sons. “I met her mom, who was a candy girl,” Bennett says. “She mentioned, ‘I do know she had a really quick life, however her complete life, she dreamed about turning into a star within the leisure world, and she or he achieved the success that she wished so far as I’m involved.’ All people else felt that there was one thing tragic about it, however she felt contented that [her daughter] was in a position to obtain what she wished.”
However one of many main themes of “Life Is a Present” is that performers shouldn’t turn into intoxicated by fame. As Bennett places it, “Once I was first acknowledged on Novice Night time, Pearl Bailey mentioned to me, ‘Now, son, you’re a really gifted particular person, however don’t let it go to your head that a lot. Look out for fame.’”