Tony Bennett – America's warm voice


In the darkest period of his life, due to drug addiction, between 1975 and 1977 Tony Bennett recorded two discs with pianist Bill Evans, Tony Bennett/Bill Evans and Together Again, in which the interpretative intensity of the Italian-American crooner meets the lyrical sweetness of the New Jersey pianist. A few years later in 1979 Bennett nearly died from a cocaine overdose; seems like the end of a dazzling career, and instead, the sudden fall into obscurity, common destiny of a large group of characters from the musical firmament, turns, thanks to the help of his son Danny, into the unexpected beginning of a season full of new artistic adventures and personal satisfactions.

Born in New York during the great depression from an Italian-American family, originally from Calabria, from an early age Bennett stood out for his singing skills, so much so that he was invited by the jazz singer and actress Pearl Bailey to perform at the opening of his concert in Greenwich Village. On the advice of comedian Bob Hope, present at the show, the young singer changes his name from Anthony Benedetto to the more captivating Tony Bennett. Commercial success comes shortly after with the song Because of You, followed by Cold, Cold Heart, Blue Velvet and, later, in the Sixties, with the interpretation of the classic Left My Heart in San Francisco, written by his trusted pianist Ralph Sharon, which allows him to win two Grammy Awards.

Having become a star, Tony Bennett in those years did not forget jazz, for which he nurtured a visceral passion throughout his career: in 1957 he recorded the album The Beat of My Heart, accompanied by prestigious jazz musicians such as Art Blakey, Nat Adderley, Kai Winding, Jo Jones, Al Cohn and Herbie Mann, and he joined the Count Basie Orchestra between 1958 and 1959. The return in the eighties will once again see him divide between jazz and songs from Frank Sinatra's American songbook, interpreted, in the 2000s, in a series of duets with young and old glories of international music, such as Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse, Michael Buble. Among the collaborations of recent years, the one with Lady Gaga with the albums stands out Cheek to Cheek, with which he reaches, at the venerable age of 88, the first place on the US Billboard 200, e Love For Sale, released in October 2021, just a few months after the announcement of his retirement from the scene due to Alzheimer's disease.

Tony Bennett, who passed away today at the age of 96, like Frank Sinatra, of whom he was an admirer and friend, embodied in an excellent way the figure of the refined and prepared crooner capable of narratively interpreting pop music pieces with a deep jazz feeling, leaning lightly on the notes with a warm and enveloping voice capable of transporting the listener and his stage partners in a story lasting a few minutes. In his autobiography Just Getting Started, a tribute to the extraordinary people who inspired him during his long musical career, Tony Bennett wrote: “No one is alone, on stage or in life. A singer is lucky to be in the spotlight. But every breath and every note is shared first by the talents who write the song and the musicians who bring it to life, and finally by the man or woman who voices the song. I tried to put everything into that song and into life”.

Paolo Marra

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