There was a lot of excitement for Tony Bennett’s 90th birthday a few years ago. But this year will be more significant for this famous singer. Namely, he will mark the 70th anniversary of his very first recording. He published it as “Bari” when he was working for the Leslie Records label. This was when the legendary Pearl Bailey requested from Tony to open a show for her. And the stars aligned that night for Bennett as Bob Hope watched him perform. Hope then invited Tony on the road with him.
And of course, the rest is history, as they say. Since that evening, Bennett has had a brilliant and successful career. It was filled with a myriad of honors, hits, and surprises. But Tony does not plan to stop yet. He is a national treasure, and wherever he goes people turn their heads in awe. Even to this day, he changes a city he visits for the better.
Things to Know about This Legend
Bennett says that he revels in performing and nothing makes him happier than entertaining the public. The first time he noticed his natural talent was back home in Astoria. Together with his siblings, he would perform in front of his family. By his own admission, his parents were encouraging and loving. Seeing that, it prompted him to move mountains in order to become a performer. One of the things that makes him happy is the notion that he can assist his audience in forgetting their problems while watching him perform.
What’s more, he still relies on most of the things he learned while at the American Theatre Wing. Tony said that this was when he realized that he should produce only A-quality material. He follows this principle even today. In fact, when he joined Columbia, he made it clear that he did not want to create hit songs only — he was after a hit catalog in the long run. According to him, he would quarrel with Mitch Miller who wanted him to perform songs which everyone would forget in a few weeks.
So, he struck an agreement with him. If he were to release a pop album, then the next one had to be influenced by jazz. This was because his teacher Mimi Speer told him not to follow in the footsteps of other singers. She wanted him to study jazz instrumentalists and then implement everything he had learned from them into his songs.
More Fun Facts
Tony states that his liking of the Great American Songbook exists because he has always admired the art of songwriting. When reminiscing about this period, he said that the best artists wrote songs at the same time. You had Gershwin, Yip Harburg, Ellington, and Cole Porter back then. They all belonged to an extraordinary generation of songwriters. Together, they brought the Great American Songbook to the world. And their songs carry a universal message. You can always adopt them as your own and then bring them closer to an audience. If you succeed in that, then they will cross all boundaries and become timeless.
Moreover, his latest album was released last year. It was a collaboration with Diana Krall. And Bennett has made it clear that he would love to work with Stevie Wonder on a jazz album. Also, he carries fond memories from their time working on the ‘Duets’ album. This was when he saw Wonder playing at the piano. At that moment, he sounded like Oscar Peterson to Tony.
When you have such a remarkable life, it’s only natural that people would want to see it unfold in a musical. So, what does Bennett have to say about this idea? Well, he noted that Abby Mann, a movie maker, would always tell him that his life was worthy of a movie production.
To be specific, he grew up during the Great Depression only to be discovered by Bob Hope. This man gave him a new name which he still uses. In addition, it was Ralph Sharon who found his song ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco’ in a drawer. Sharon brought the song on the road with them.