Tony Bennett

2014 Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett takes the crown when it comes to great comebacks. During the Beatles craze, he was one of the few classic pop artists (along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Andy Williams) to continue recording and to hit the charts. He essentially never stopped recording at any time during his long career, and he remains a steady draw in theaters and nightclubs.

Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, grew up in the borough of Queens in New York City. At ten, he was already beginning to attract attention as a singer, performing with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the opening of the Triborough Bridge in 1936. In 1946, he got a big break when Bob Hope saw him performing with Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village, put him into his stage show, and suggested a name-change to 'Tony Bennett.' In 1950, Columbia Records' A&R director, Mitch Miller, heard Tony's demonstration recording of 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' and signed him to the label.

Bennett's first hit, 'Because of You', topped the charts in September 1951, followed by his cover of Hank Williams' 'Cold, Cold Heart', which hit number one. After another five chart entries over the next two years, Tony returned to number one in November 1953 with 'Rags to Riches'. Its follow-up, 'Stranger in Paradise' from the Broadway musical Kismet, also topped the charts, and in 1954 Bennett again reached the Top Ten with Williams' 'There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight' and 'Cinnamon Sinner'. Perhaps the rise of rock & roll in the mid-'50s made continued success difficult for Bennett, but he still placed singles in the charts through 1960, and even returned to the Top Ten with 'In the Middle of an Island' in 1957.

Tony's 1962, I Left My Heart in San Francisco reached the Top Five and went gold, and the single won him Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance. For the next three years, Bennett's albums regularly placed in the Top 100, along with a series of charting singles that included 'Who Can I Turn To When Nobody Needs Me' and 'If I Ruled the World', both from Broadway musicals. In 1972, Tony left Columbia for MGM Records, but in 1986 he re-signed to Columbia and released The Art of Excellence, his first chart album in 14 years.

Bennet has been considered a vocalist for "adults" since the arrival of rock 'n' roll. Sinatra once called him the greatest pop vocalist of them all, and some of his mid-period tracks (most notably 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco') remain American classics. He wasn't ready-made for MTV, but he nevertheless made a video for the channel and was later featured on an episode of MTV Unplugged in 1994: Tony cannily found ways to attract the attention of the MTV generation without changing his singing style. By the early '90s, Bennett won back-to-back Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. He essentially became a Grammy constant, also taking home Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance awards for Here's to the Ladies (1995) and On Holiday: A Tribute to Billie Holiday (1997). In 2001, he released Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues, an album of duets. Mr. Bennett continues to play sold-old venues across the country. Tony Bennett's voice is rumored to have only improved with age. He has succeeded in practically every genre, recording albums with all-time greats including the Count Basie Orchestra, Bill Evans, Gene Krupa, and his hit version of Hank Williams's 'Cold Cold Heart' was pre-rock pop's very first flirtation with the country market. In response to his newborn appeal, almost all of his early-'60s Columbia albums have been reissued in CD form.


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