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Legendary Singer Tony Bennett Dies Aged 96

21 July 2023 | 10:52 pm | Stephen Green

One of the world's greatest ever song interpreters Tony Bennett has passed away.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett (Credit: John Mathew Smith)

With eight decades at the top of the music industry, crooner Tony Bennett is being remembered as one of the greatest singers of all time. Labelled as the greatest singer in the world by his contemporary Frank Sinatra, the songman passed away in New York City today after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bennett’s incredible career saw him amassing over 50 million album sales across an active singing career of more than seventy years.

After a short stint fighting in World War II as a young man, Bennett performed in an armed forces band after conflict ended, signing with Columbia Records and releasing his first single Because Of You in 1951. Bennett had a string of hits across the 50s and 60s, interpreting and cementing the great American songbook with hits including I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Rags To Riches and The Good Life.

Not content to master the world of pop, Bennett was also revered as one of the jazz greats, working with Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Bill Evans.

He released albums in every decade since the 1950s and was nominated for an incredible forty-two Grammy awards, taking home twenty of them. He was given the Lifetime Achievement award in 2001. Across his career, he also took home two Primetime Emmy Awards and dipped his toe into acting. He was also a prolific painter, publishing two books of his art, including a rendering of Central Park which hangs in the Smithsonian Art Museum.

After a healthy first two decades of hits, Bennett’s fortunes changed in the late 60s and 70s, releasing now appreciated, but then ignored albums including his Bill Evans collaborations, but ended the decade with substance issues and without a record deal. Getting his life back on track, Bennett was re-signed to Columbia Records in 1986, starting his journey on the comeback trail with the critically acclaimed Art of Excellence, re-establishing him as an artistic force.

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He underwent a career (and sales) renaissance in the 1990s with an MTV Unplugged album and late night TV performances introducing him to a whole new generation. He hit #1 in 2011 with his second Duets album, making him the oldest artist in history to hit the top of the albums chart.

In later years, the singer lent his talents to other artists, creating duet works with modern singers including Diana Krall, K.D. Lang, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga.

His final public performance was in 2021 with Lady Gaga, performing at Radio City Music Hall after releasing his second album of collaborations with her, Love For Sale. The album was nominated for five Grammys including Album of the Year and broke the record for the oldest person to release an album of new material (at 95), a fitting farewell to a giant of the music industry.

Bennett is survived by his wife Susan Benedetto, his four children and nine grandchildren.