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Exclusive Interview: On Reputation and Audiences


An encore of Great Performances – Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek To Cheek LIVE! will air on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 9PM EST on PBS (check local listings). In this exclusive interview, singers Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga speak about their careers, reputations and belief in the audience.

“I recognize and I’m aware and ok with being a polarizing figure in a lot of ways, and my music up until this point can be very divisive because it makes a statement,” says Lady Gaga, an extremely popular and sometimes controversial performing artist.

“When I made this record with Tony, I told him a few times, I don’t want you in the line of my fire, because some people really don’t get what I do. And he said, don’t you worry about it, you just sing, and nothing’s going to matter. You sound so great when you sing jazz, don’t worry about it.

I listened to him and I did that. I made sure in my own way that there was nothing standing in the way from people just listening to the music. I didn’t want them to focus on anything else. I wanted them to close their eyes and be almost as though they had no idea it was me. I sound very different when I sing jazz. It doesn’t matter if it’s me or not, it matters that it’s great music.”

Tony Bennett, a statesman in the world of jazz, recalls his first performance with Lady Gaga at a nonprofit organization’s benefit, and the questions he had during the early days of his own career.

“The first time I performed with you at the Robin Hood benefit, I never heard an audience love a performer as much as you,” says Bennett to Lady Gaga. “I believe in the audience more than a producer. Many years ago I was on a talk show with the great Richard Rogers. And he saw that I had a couple million selling records. I was brand new. He said to me, ‘Tony, if the audience loves it, go to sleep on that.’ You have a gift, and that gift is that the audience understands you and adores you. So you do what you really want to do. ”

“That’s what he does,” responds Lady Gaga, Bennett’s biggest fan. “There’s something very incredible for me to watch when you watch in the room — you take their breath away. Because they’re not just witnessing an artist or a moment, but they’re witnessing history when he walks in the room. There is an admiration and a love and loyalty to you that runs through the center of the earth. It’s very strong.”


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