Tony Bennett: his life, music, and the Alzheimer's diagnosis
In early 2021, Tony Bennett's family revealed that the artist is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Tony Bennett's Alzheimer's disease had been detected in 2016, but the singer and his team had managed to hide it from the public for five years. Tony Bennett is 94 years old and turns 95 in August.
(On the image he is going for a walk with his wife, Susan Crow.)
It was during the recording of his album with Lady Gaga that Tony Bennett began to detect the first signs of Alzheimer's disease. He had had some memory problems but initially didn't think too much of it. He was 90 years old, after all. However, in 2016 the fatal prognosis was confirmed.
Susan Crow, the singer's third wife, is looking after Tony Bennett. She says he has not given up music, and it is precisely by continuing to be active with his songs that he is able to resist the devastation of Alzheimer's disease.
(Image: Tony Bennett, Facebook)
However, according to Susan Crow, Bennett is not painting like he used to. It was always one of his passions. Here we see the singer on his Facebook account, painting the city skyline in 2020.
Is the iconic singer in the last stage of his life? Whatever the future brings, it's good to revisit his background in New York, his career, songs, disappointments, and fabulous comebacks.
(Image: Tony Bennett, Facebook)
Tony Bennett is one of the last survivors of a tradition of singers of Italian-American origin whose icon was Frank Sinatra. Sometimes they are called 'crooners' (from the verb 'to croon,' or speaking gently and softly) because of their smooth voices.
Tony Bennett was born in 1926 in a modest home in Astoria, Queens. His father, a shop clerk, died when the artist was ten years old. His mother worked as a seamstress. Anthony Dominick Benedetto, as he was baptized, had a sister and a brother.
(Images from his childhood were shared by Tony Bennett on his Facebook account)
Bennett later recalled his humble background. On Thanksgiving Day 2020, he posted this image with the following story:
"One Thanksgiving day when I was young, my mother was upset that there would be no food on the table. I entered a raffle at the movie theater down the street, and couldn't believe it when I won. Out of all things, the prize was a turkey! My family never forgot that special moment."
Tony Bennett began singing as a child in restaurants in Queens. He did so together with an uncle. One of his momentous early performances was at the opening of the Triborough Bridge in 1936. He sang in front of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Here's young Anthony in his white suit on that special day. On Facebook the older Bennett writes next to this photo: "Even from the age of 10, I knew that singing was my passion."
Anthony went on to study at the High School of Industrial Art and served in the army during World War II. On his return, performing in a venue in New York's Greenwich Village, Bob Hope saw him and recognized the young singer's talent.
Bob Hope was the one who recommended that he change his name to Tony Bennett and abandon his Italian surname. Little by little, he then climbed the ladder to fame. This was mainly due to his television appearances.
In the 1950s Tony Bennett was a huge success. He even starred in his own television program on NBC: 'The Tony Bennett Show.' A real star, he gave three concerts a day (from 10 p.m. to 1.30 a.m.). Apart from his busy artistic life, he also transformed personally: Tony Bennett married twice.
When the 60s were underway, Tony Bennett's decline was precipitous. He had serious problems with toxic substances. It was not until the 80s that his artistic and personal resurrection would come.
Tony Bennett is a performer of popular hits of all kinds. His voice has brought songs to us like 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco', 'Blue Velvet' and 'Chicago'. These were all classics that he sang at his concerts in Las Vegas in the 70s, a time when things weren't going so well.
Tony Bennett's sons, Danny and Dae, are credited with relaunching his career. They were very effective managers and publicists and got the artist back into the spotlights. He appeared, for example, on 'The Muppets' and David Letterman's talkshow.
At that point, a younger audience discovered Tony Bennett. They did so along with new jazz and pop stars, who turned to him for various collaborations. Throughout the 1990s Tony Bennett's star status was cemented.
And then there was the album that Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett recorded, with various concerts in the 2010s, which helped the iconic singer reach a younger market.
Tony Bennet has collaborated with countless important artists: from Amy Winehouse to the Spanish Alejandro Sanz (in the picture), Diana Krall, U2, Norah Jones, and Stevie Wonder. His awards include 18 Grammy and 2 Emmy Awards.
Tony Bennett has become an American icon, a man who went through different eras and got a second chance after a tough period. In the picture he appears next to George W. Bush. While meeting the president was an honor, Tony Bennett votes for the Democratic Party every time.
Tony Bennett is now enjoying his retirement. As the photos on his Facebook account attest, he enjoys life at home with his wife Susan and their Maltese dog Happy. He often shows his cooking skills to his followers. Always an Italian-American at heart, he likes to cook pasta and pizza.
"Life is a gift - even with Alzheimer's," he told his followers in February 2021. "Thank you to Susan and my family for their support." The singer's picture at the piano was taken by his granddaughter Kelsey Bennett. Tony Bennett's remarkable life and musical achievements will certainly be remembered by his family and fans, even when the star himself has become forgetful.