Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016. His final album, the 2021 release 'Love for Sale,' featured duets with Lady Gaga on the title track, 'Night and Day' and songs by American composer, Cole Porter.
Tony Bennett, the eminent and timeless singer who graced a decades long career that brought him admirers such as Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga, died Friday. He was 96, just two weeks short of his birthday.
His devotion to classic American songs earned him his first Grammy Award for the 1962 hit, 'I Left My Heart In San Francisco'.
Publicist Sylvia Weiner confirmed Bennett's death saying he died in his hometown of New York.
As one of the last great saloon singers from the mid-20th century, Bennett often said his lifelong ambition was to create "a hit catalogue rather than hit records." He released more than 70 albums, secured 19 Grammys and enjoyed deep and lasting affection from fans and fellow artists.
Bennett didn’t tell his own story when performing; he let the music speak instead, from the likes of Gershwin and Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern. Unlike his friend and mentor Sinatra, he would interpret a song rather than embody it.
If his singing and public life lacked the high drama of Sinatra’s, Bennett appealed with an easy, courtly manner and an uncommonly rich and durable voice.
“I enjoy entertaining the audience, making them forget their problems,” he said in 2006. “I think people ... are touched if they hear something that’s sincere and honest and maybe has a little sense of humour ... I just like to make people feel good when I perform.”
Bennett was praised often by his peers, but never more meaningfully than by what Sinatra said in a 1965 Life magazine interview: “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.”
He not only survived the rise of rock music but endured so long and so well that he gained new fans and collaborators, some young enough to be his grandchildren. In 2014, at age 88, Bennett broke his own record as the oldest living performer with a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart for 'Cheek to Cheek', his duet project with Lady Gaga.
For Bennett, who was one of the few performers to move easily between pop and jazz, such collaborations were part of his crusade to expose new audiences to what he called the Great American Songbook.
“No country has given the world such great music,” Bennett said in a 2015 interview with Downbeat Magazine. “Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern. Those songs will never die.”
Paintings and portraits
Besides singing, Bennett pursued his lifelong passion for painting by taking art lessons and bringing his sketchbook on the road. His paintings, signed with his family name Benedetto — including portraits of his musician friends and Central Park landscapes — were displayed in public and private collections, including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.