September 12th, 2007
Tony Bennett
The Music Never Ends

Tony Bennett is an artist who moves the hearts and touches the souls of audiences. He’s the singer’s singer and has received high praise from his colleagues through the years, including Frank Sinatra, who stated unequivocally, “Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.” He is an international treasure who was honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World award, which aptly describes the scope of his accomplishments.

The son of a grocer and Italian-born immigrant, Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born on August 3, 1926, in the Astoria section of Queens. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he nurtured his two passions – singing and painting. His boyhood idols included Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, both big influences on Bennett’s easy, natural singing style. Bennett sang while waiting tables as a teenager, then performed with military bands in the Army during World War II. He later had vocal studies at the American Theatre Wing school. The first time Bennett sang in a nightclub in 1946, he sat in with trombonist Tyree Glenn at the Shangri-La in Astoria.

Bennett’s big break came in 1949 when comedian Bob Hope noticed him working with Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village in New York City. As Bennett recalls, “Bob Hope came down to check out my act. He liked my singing so much that after the show he came back to see me in my dressing room and said, ‘Come on kid, you’re going to come to the Paramount and sing with me.’ But first he told me he didn’t care for my stage name (Joe Bari) and asked me what my real name was. I told him, ‘My name is Anthony Dominick Benedetto,’ and he said, ‘We’ll call you Tony Bennett.’ And that’s how it happened. A new Americanized name, the start of a wonderful career and a glorious adventure that has continued for 50 years.”

With more than 50 million records sold worldwide and platinum and gold albums to his credit, Bennett has received 15 Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The MTV generation first took Bennett to heart during his appearance with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the 1993 MTV Video Awards ceremony. He appeared on MTV Unplugged and the resulting recording of the same name garnered the singer Grammy’s top award, Album of the Year. “Tony Bennett has not just bridged the generation gap,” pointed out The New York Times, “he has demolished it. He has solidly connected with a younger crowd weaned on rock. And there have been no compromises.” Bennett credits his son and manager, Danny, for his success in capturing a whole new generation of listeners.

His initial successes came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950s, including such chart-toppers as “Because of You,” “Rags to Riches” and a remake of Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart.” He had 24 songs in the Top 40, including “I Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life,” “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me),” and his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which garnered him two Grammy Awards. Bennett is one of a handful of artists to have new albums charting in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and beyond. He introduced a multitude of songs into the Great American Songbook that have since become standards for pop music. He has toured the world to sold-out audiences with rave reviews whenever he performs. Bennett re-signed with Columbia Records in 1986 and released the critically acclaimed The Art of Excellence. Since his 1991 show-stopping performance at the Grammy Awards of “When Do the Bells Ring for Me,” from his Astoria album, he has received a string of Grammy Awards for releases, including Steppin’ Out, Perfectly Frank, and MTV Unplugged. In celebration of his unparalleled contributions to popular music with worldwide record sales of over 30 million, Columbia/Legacy assembled Forty Years: The Artistry of Tony Bennett. The four-CD boxed set, released in 1991, chronicles the singer’s stellar recording career and documents his growth as an artist, inspiring Time magazine to call the collection “… the essence of why CD boxed sets are a blessing.”

Tony Bennett became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005, and in 2006 was named an NEA Jazz Master and recipient of Billboard Magazine’s prestigious Century Award, in honor of his outstanding contributions to music.

Tony Bennett has also received an Emmy Award and a Cable Ace Award for his groundbreaking television special, Live By Request…Tony Bennett, which featured a unique interactive format in which the viewing audience called in song requests to the performer live during the program, a concept created by Bennett that has become a regular special on the A&E network. Bennett has also authored two books, What My Heart Has Seen, a bound edition of his paintings published in 1996, and The Good Life, his heartfelt autobiography released in 1998. He won another Grammy Award in 2006 for The Art of Romance.

Tony Bennett is a dedicated painter whose interest in art began as a child. He continues to paint every day, even while touring internationally. He has exhibited his work in galleries around the world and was chosen to be the official artist of the 2001 Kentucky Derby, creating two original paintings celebrating this historic event. The United Nations has commissioned him for two paintings, including one for its 50th anniversary. His original painting “Homage to Hockney” is on permanent display at the Butler Institute of American Art, while the landmark National Arts Club in New York is home to his painting, “Boy on Sailboat, Sydney Bay.” Most recently his oil painting, entitled “Central Park,” was accepted to the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s permanent collection in Washington, D.C.

Throughout his career, Bennett has always put his heart and time into humanitarian concerns. He has raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, which established a research fund in his name. His original paintings each year grace the cover of the American Cancer Society’s annual holiday greeting card, proceeds from which are earmarked for cancer research. He is active in environmental concerns and has performed at fundraisers for both the Walden Woods Foundation and the Save the Rainforest Foundation. The Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta bestowed upon him its Salute to Greatness Award for his efforts to fight discrimination. He conceived and spearheaded the effort to honor his great friend with the establishment of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which opened its doors as a New York City public high school offering an extensive arts curriculum in September 2001.

In the 1950s, thousands of screaming bobby-soxers surrounded the Paramount Theatre in New York, held back only by police barricades, to see their singing idol Tony Bennett. Today, the children and grandchildren of those fans are enjoying the same experience. Perhaps what sums up Bennett’s legacy and longevity best was the observation The New York Times made in a review of MTV Unplugged. “What accounts for the Bennett magic? Artistry certainly. The repertory is indeed classic… But perhaps more important is his ability to convey a sense of joy, of utter satisfaction, in what he is doing.”

Tony Bennett turned 80 on August 3, 2006, an event that generated a wide range of tributes and celebrations. In addition to the release of Duets – An American Classic, RPM Records/Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings is launching a monumental and definitive reissue project, The Tony Bennett Master Series. Executive produced by Tony Bennett and Danny Bennett, the first five releases in The Tony Bennett Master Series include expanded editions of three Grammy-winning titles – I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962), Perfectly Frank (1992), and MTV Unplugged (1994) – as well as two brand-new 16-song collections: Tony Bennett’s Greatest Hits of the ’50s and Tony Bennett’s Greatest Hits of the ’60s.

Bennett was the subject of a major television special, Tony Bennett: An American Classic, which aired on NBC in November 2006. The special featured musical guests Elton John, Michael Bublé, John Legend, k.d. lang, Diana Krall, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Chris Botti, and Juanes. Segment hosts for the program included Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Billy Crystal, John Travolta, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Notables from the worlds of music, stage, screen, and politics were on hand to help Bennett celebrate his 80th birthday at a star-studded party at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The evening included heartfelt tributes from Harry Belafonte, Bruce Willis, Katie Couric, and former President Bill Clinton.

As the world’s most boyish octogenarian, a vital musical artist at the peak of his powers, Tony Bennett is living proof that fairy tales can indeed come true when you’re young at heart.

  • earl axelrod

    Can this PBS special of Tony Bennett (producer Clint Eastwood) be purchased on DVD ?

  • Jan Rowe

    I am also wondering if the PBS special of Tony Bennett(producer Clint Eastwood) is available to purchase on DVD. I am also curious when the show will be run again. It was fantastic!!

  • John McCalmon

    Wonderful show. I’ll purchase it when available. This would be a great show for fund raising, though I hope I won’t have to wait that long!

  • eileen peggy steers

    As the above I am curious to know if the PBS special is available on DVD

  • angela massucco

    I have always loved Sinatra but was curious about Tony Bennett. What a wonderful warm man! And the show introduced me to the lovely playing of Bill Evans.

  • Robert Shapiro

    I must have this on DVD. I need to purchase them for all my family and friends. This brillant talented considerate man is truly an american treasure.

  • larry hochman

    how to purchase dvd of clint eastwoods special on tony bennett please—thanks

  • Ed Bellezza

    A memorable program, one to be seen again and again. Like everyone else, please make it available on DVD.

  • shirley combs

    please tell me how to purchase dvd of clint eastwood’s special on tony bennet—thank you so much.

  • Dulles Dhirt

    Tony Bennett is the most life-enhancing entertainer since Jimmy Durante.
    Tony Bennett is one of the greatest voices of the Civil Rights era.
    The voice of Tony Bennett is the essence of the San Francisco that I have lived and loved.
    Tony Bennett is the life that shows how wonderful the world would be if music were all.

  • Jim

    So…is “The Music Never Ends” (Clint Eastwood) available for purchase on DVD? Thanks

  • norm Stark

    Having sung all my life ( a small part of my 89 years so far)Tony Bennett still is the one who makes me cry and makes me laugh. He must be a great human being. Wish I had met him in my wanderings in the world of music………….but just think…….he is the World of Music.

  • Owen

    Do know if this was done In full Standard screen?
    Thanks

  • Henry Charles Kroeger

    If Tony Bennett will get this message I’ll be so very happy. Becourse Tony Bennett is for me the greatest singer in the world.
    I my self are born Maj 9. 1926 I’m 3 month older than Tony Bennet. I’m listening to his greatest hit: Who can I turn to, when nobody needs me; This is a beautiful song. All my life has been a singing life, but I never sing as good as Tony Bennett.
    When you next august the 3 are 85 I will be thinking of you and play your songs, and I will get tears in my eyes.
    Dear Tony Bennett, I love you so much, I like to meat you and shake hands with you, but no it’s only a dream.
    Have a good life.
    Sincerely Henry Charles Kroeger, (in danish Krøger) Denmark.

  • LINDA O

    Tony Bennett is one of my all time great singers. I love his music especially his song THE MUSIC NEVER ENDS. Its just a deep down emotional song. Once you hear him sing it , you’ll love it too.

  • Mary Bradley

    I just watched the American Masters show about Tony Bennett with Clint Eastwood. I was so glad that I stumbled on it. It was fantastic. I never realized before the joy that you can see and feel when Tony Bennett performs. There isn’t anyone today that quite compares with him.

    I hope to be seeing more programs similar to that one. There are some other singers that one could enjoy almost as much as Mr. Bennett.

    Thank you KET!

  • Gigi

    it would be fantastic if I could figure out when it is on again! Why is finding the schedule so HARD!

  • Nelson Sandy

    As a singer myself, I have picked two great singers to learn from, Frank Sinatra, and of course, the fabulous Tony Bennett. The clues to singing properly, [not just having a GOOD voice], is to FEEL THE MUSIC, phrase with the greatest of style, know the true meaning of the WORDS, and deliver with personality. And, that’s what THEY have. I’m so glad I grew up in their era.

  • Sam McCollum

    Dear PBS… Dear Mr Bennett

    PBS, thank you for providing Tony (forgive me Mr; Bennett, but I feel as though I know you) with the means to showcase his music, his appraciation and respect for other artists, young and mature as well.

    Years ago I was fortunate to see Tony in person, in a very small venue, it was almost as though we had been invited into his home, and he was so appreciative in being allowed to entertain us. The man was elegant… it was so clear that he loved his work, and worked at perfection… he was… well perfect !

    In the PBS show, I think of the segment with Lady Gaga, I am a bit older, so While I was no fan of her music, I was interested in seeing why Tony had chosen her to perform with him… It was immediately apparent, why so many young people and artists are such fans of this man, the two of them were having such a great time together… she was “In Love” and so pleased to be performing with him, and he, he loved her enthusiasm, and appraciated her talent.

    Lady gaga, you were happly respectful to someone we all love, thank you… I respect you, so much for that.

    Thank you Tony ,thank you Lady gaga, thank you PBS !

    Sam

  • Francesca Amari, Cabaret singer

    I have NEVER stopped what I was doing to watch a TV show, as I did with this special. I can’t believe I did not see this when it aired, but it is brilliant…and I am still overcome with emotion about it (and I’m NOT that way about TV)…it was a beautiful tribute to Tony, but also the art form of the Great American Songbook and composers and writers and the POWER of music. Oh my, I am so blessed that I saw this and thank you for producing it. It was beautifully, beautifully edited – BRILLIANT…and informative and moving and delightful. Thank you.

Salinger

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