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Remembering Tony Bennett's Monumental Musical Legacy: "The Classiest Singer, Man, And Performer You Will Ever See"
With 19 GRAMMYs and a "once-in-a-generation" voice, Tony Bennett's undying love for the Great American Songbook made for a remarkable career. The iconic singer died on July 21, just two weeks short of his 97th birthday.
He was an integral part of the American cultural fabric, one of the music industry's shining lights, the Great American Songbook's biggest living champion and a generation-spanning one-of-a-kind talent whose iconic career stretched from radio days to the current streaming age. The death of Tony Bennett at age 96 marks the end of an era in both music and the nation at large; a legendary figure who transcended the decades with an unmatched voice and a burning passion for the music he performed.
A recipient of the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, Bennett won 19 GRAMMYS among 41 nominations throughout his staggering career. His first two GRAMMYS came from his signature tune, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," which won Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male and Record of the Year at the 1963 GRAMMYs (it was later inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1994). He most recently won a GRAMMY in 2022 for Traditional Best Pop Vocal Album for his Cole Porter tribute with Lady Gaga, Love For Sale.
"Tony Bennett was an iconic, once-in-a-generation voice in American music," said Harvey Mason jr, CEO of The Recording Academy. "A 19-time GRAMMY winner between 1962-2021, Tony's work has stood the test of time while being embraced universally by audiences and musicians across generations. We're honored to have celebrated Tony's GRAMMY moments, 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award, and 1994 GRAMMY Hall of Fame induction alongside him throughout his illustrious career. The world has lost an astounding talent, and he will be deeply missed."
In the wake of his passing, Bennett's monumental impact on music has left the medium's biggest names musing about his vast influence. "Without doubt the classiest singer, man, and performer you will ever see," said Elton John in an Instagram post. "He's irreplaceable. I loved and adored him." Billy Joel called Bennett "one of the most important interpreters of American popular song" in his own post, while fellow crooner Harry Connick Jr. wrote "You changed the world with your voice."
"From an early age, I've been blessed by now that I wanted to be involved in artistic endeavors," Bennett wrote in his 2012 memoir Life is a Gift. "Even though we were very poor, my parents placed a high value on the arts. I always wanted to sing and paint; I never had to ask, 'What am I going to do with my life?' I always knew."
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Queens, New York, Bennett took early influence from his father, who was known to sing Italian folk songs; the crooner later credited his father (who died when he was 10) with inspiring his eventual career. Bennett's later service in World War II led to him to study at the American Theater Wing once stateside thanks to the G.I. Bill.
After a successful career as a club musician (where comedian Bob Hope bequeathed Bennett his shorter, angelized moniker), Columbia Records president Mitch Miller welcomed Bennett to his roster and in 1951, he released his first album Because of You. Of its eponymous single, Johnny Mathis later told GRAMMY.com it's the song he most personally associates with Tony. "His interpretation is so honest and it was very representative of the time," recalled Mathis of the track. "Because of You" was his first No. 1 hit — and in fitting form, it was also the last song he sang before his death.
Throughout his subsequent career, Bennett fiercely cherished the songs he sang, making hits of early recordings, from the bombastic "Rags to Riches" to the bittersweet "The Good Life." Though Bennett's catalog did include one dabble into modern pop hits with 1970's Tony Bennett Sings the Great Hits of Today!, his undying loyalty to his art manifested in his own response to the schlocky album: he later recalled throwing up the first time he heard it played back.
The consummate jazz virtuoso also embodied a steadfast determination to preserve and honor the Great American Songbook in his tribute albums. He recorded the music of everyone from friend and contemporary Ella Fitzegerald (1995's Here's to the Ladies), to several jazz greats on 2014's Cheek to Cheek, his first collaborative project with Lady Gaga.
Cheek to Cheek and the aforementioned Love for Sale — Bennett and Gaga's second LP together — both helped introduce Bennett to a new generation of listeners. In fact, Bennett reintroduced himself to fresh audiences multiple times during his career, whether his most recent bow with Gaga or in 1995 when his MTV Unplugged album won GRAMMYs for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance and the coveted Album of the Year.
The smooth romance of Bennett's voice also served as a motif for his catalog, a talent that The Voice himself, Frank Sinatra, first noticed. Lifelong friends until his death, Sinatra was famously quoted in a 1965 interview for Life Magazine saying, "For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business," a sentiment that cemented Bennett as an artist for all-time. (In the wake of his death, Sinatra's daughter Nancy called him "one of the most splendid people who ever lived.")
When it comes to vocal prowess alone, take for example "The Way You Look Tonight," the ultimate love song originally written in 1936 that Bennett first recorded in 1956, delivering multiple interpretations throughout his career. Elsewhere, it was during his '70s-era work with the pianist Bill Evans that showcased the singer's tender voice alongside Evans' tinkling piano, especially in the mournful "Young and Foolish," on which he sings of a sunsetting of youth.
"Overall, his absolute unrelenting commitment to excellence is at the forefront," musician and Bennett collaborator Gregg Field told GRAMMY.com last year. "In spite of decades of passing musical trends, Tony recognized greatness, and it is always that the next generation of artists that are attracted to his music."
But whether the songs he recorded were joyful or melancholy, Bennett's passion always shone through — and is ultimately what will make his legacy live on. "I encourage everyone to find their passion," he later wrote in Life is a Gift. "Work as hard as you can to follow your dreams; they will ultimately lead you to contentment in every aspect of your life. It's my goal at the end of the day to be able to lay my head on my pillow, knowing I've tried my best."
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images
What Is Lady Gaga's Real Name? 7 Facts To Know About The GRAMMY-Winning 'Chromatica' Singer
Did you know Lady Gaga has won 13 GRAMMYs across multiple genres? Here are seven facts to know about "Mother Monster," aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.
Everything Lady Gaga has touched bears her conspicuous fingerprints, but the simple fact remains: there's no predicting in which direction she'll swerve next.
She hit the world stage by slugging out some of the most undeniable pop smashes of the late 2000s, like "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance." Then, she made a bold stride for LGBTQ+ representation with 2011's Born This Way.
From there, the 13-time GRAMMY winner proved she could be it all, and do it all — from gonzo EDM (2013's Artpop) to confessional soft rock (2016's Joanne) to futuristic dispatches (2020's Chromatica).
In between, she's helped Tony Bennett conclude his career on a magnificent note with 2014's Cheek to Cheek and 2021's Love for Sale, shattered hearts as the co-lead of 2018's A Star is Born, and overall kept her scores of Little Monsters satiated with each creative move.
But if you've made it to this article, chances are you're looking for a few basic facts about the multi-hyphenate born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. So here are seven questions about Lady Gaga, answered — whether you're a brand-new fan or just want to brush up.
Who Is Lady Gaga, And Where Did She Come From?
Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986 into an Italian American family in New York City. She showed musical promise early on — she played piano from age 4 and went on to perform at open-mic nights.
Her mother, Cynthia Louise, is a philanthropist and businesswoman; her father, Joseph Germanotta, is an internet entrepreneur. She has a younger sister, Natali Germanotta.
After attending the all-girls school the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan, she studied music at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. And before her musical career took off, she danced in go-go bars in New York City.
Why Did Lady Gaga Change Her Name?
Her stage name is a nod to Queen and their classic song "Radio Ga Ga." Throw on the faux-royal title, and you've got a moniker that the world won't soon forget.
What Is Lady Gaga's Biggest Hit?
That depends on what metric you want to go by. Through a GRAMMYs lens, "Bad Romance," "Poker Face," "Shallow" (from A Star is Born) and "I Get a Kick Out of You" (with Tony Bennett) are up there, in terms of wins and nominations.
Spotify tells a slightly different story, at least at press time: While "Shallow" reigns supreme at 1.85 billion streams, her Ariana Grande collab "Rain On Me" and another Star is Born track, "Always Remember Us This Way" have broken 800 million streams ("Rain On Me" has nearly 833 mil, and "Always Remember" has more than 804 mil).
And according to the Billboard Hot 100, Lady Gaga's biggest hit is "Born This Way," which remained at No. 1 for six weeks. She had four other songs hit No. 1 on that chart, too: "Rain On Me," "Just Dance" (with Colby O'Donis), "Shallow" and "Poker Face."
How Many GRAMMYs Has Lady Gaga Won?
At press time, Lady Gaga has won 13 GRAMMYs and has received 34 GRAMMY nominations overall.
Did Lady Gaga Really Wear A Meat Dress?
She sure did — at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. But she didn't mean it as a knock against animal rights.
"It's certainly no disrespect to anyone that's vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I'm the most judgment-free human being on the Earth," Gaga explained to Ellen Degeneres post-VMAs, in one of many examples of her sociopolitically outspoken nature.
"It has many interpretations," she continued. "But for me this evening, it's [saying], 'If we don't stand up for what we believe in, if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones." (In this case, she was referring to "don't ask, don't tell" policies in the military.)
What Is Lady Gaga's Connection To Bradley Cooper?
Lady Gaga starred alongside Bradley Cooper in the 2018 film A Star is Born. In the film, Cooper plays Jackson "Jack" Maine, an alcoholic, drug-addicted musician whose career is dwindling. He later discovers and nurtures Ally (Lady Gaga), a struggling artist. The two fall in love quickly and deeply.
A Star is Born heavily features the chart-topping song "Shallow," the lead single off the film's soundtrack, performed by Lady Gaga and Cooper. Lady Gaga won the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, shared with Cooper, and Best Song Written For Visual Media, both for "Shallow," at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The song also won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2019. At the 2020 GRAMMYs, Lady Gaga won the GRAMMY for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media for A Star Is Born as well as Best Song Written For Visual Media for "I'll Never Love Again (Film Version)," a single off the film's soundtrack.
And while Gaga's and Cooper's steamy performance of "Shallow" at the 2019 Oscars ginned up gossip about an offstage relationship, there's no evidence that's been the case. But on screen, they suffused the fourth remake of the film with crucial chemistry and verve.
Bonus fact: While some film historians believe actors Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay's relationship was the real-life inspiration for the original 1937 version of the film, A Star Is Born is not based on a true story.
Director William A. Wellman and screenwriter Robert Carson devised the original storyline together, based on a simple, shopworn conceit: a young woman has showbiz dreams and meets a famous man in decline — who charts her path to stardom while falling for her.
Next up: Lady Gaga will star alongside Joaquin Phoenix in Joker: Folie à Deux, the sequel to the 2019 blockbuster, Joker. Early reports on the film, which is reported to be a musical, indicate Gaga will star as Harley Quinn, Joker's devilish sidekick and love interest. Lady Gaga confirmed her involvement in Joker: Folie à Deux — as well as the film's release date, Oct. 4, 2024 — in a teaser video she posted on social media today.
When Will Lady Gaga Be On Tour Next?
Right now! Her Chromatica Ball Tour — which just wrapped its first leg in Europe — is set to swing North America before heading overseas to Japan. You can find her tour dates here.
PHOTO: Rich Fury/Getty Images
Silk Sonic Wins Record Of The Year For "Leave The Door Open" | 2022 GRAMMYs
"That's what we call a clean sweep!": Silk Sonic's "Leave The Door Open" wins Record Of The Year
Silk Sonic’s "Leave The Door Open" won the GRAMMY for Record Of The Year at the 2022 GRAMMYs. This award represents a win in all four nominated categories, adding to wins for Song Of The Year and Best R&B Song.
“We are really trying our hardest to remain humble at this point – but in the industry we call that clean sweep!” Anderson .Paak enthused. “For all the other nominees, y’all know we love y’all. Drinks on Silk Sonic tonight!”
ABBA’s "I Still Have Faith In You," "Freedom" by Jon Batiste, "I Get A Kick Out Of You" by Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, "Peaches" by Justin Bieber ft. Daniel Casear & Giveon, Brandi Carlile’s "Right On Time," Kiss Me More" by Doja Cat ft. SZA, "Happier Than Ever" by Billie Eilish, "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" by Lil Nas X and "drivers license" by Olivia Rodrigo were the other nominees in the prestigious category.
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Lady Gaga Pays Homage To Tony Bennett With Heartfelt "Love for Sale” & “Do I Love You" Performance | 2022 GRAMMYs
Dressed to the nines in a seafoam green ball gown, Lady Gaga performed "Love for Sale” and “Do I Love You" — two tracks from her GRAMMY-winning collaboration album with Tony Bennett, 'Love for Sale'
Lady Gaga transformed the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas into her own personal jazz lounge, as she performed Love for Sale highlights "Love for Sale” & “Do I Love You" at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. It came easy to the pop icon, as she’s no stranger to the Sin City stage (her Lady Gaga Enigma + Jazz & Piano residency at MGM Park Theater began in 2018).
The performance served as a tribute to Gaga’s Love for Sale (and longtime) collaborator Tony Bennett, who announced his retirement last year as the 95-year-old is currently battling Alzheimer’s disease. Though he couldn’t be in attendance, the jazz legend opted to virtually introduce his latest partner-in-music.
First channeling her inner Judy Garland, Gaga performed a glitzy rendition of the album’s title track. The performance then got more somber as the singer paid tribute to Bennett with “Do I Love You," as clips of the pair recording and performing together played onscreen. It was a naturally touching performance, with Gaga getting choked up when looking at the 95-year-old’s hand before hitting her final note.
Gaga was already a winner before she stepped on stage: Love For Sale won awards for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical at the Premiere Ceremony earlier in the evening. The album’s single “I Get A Kick Out Of You” also earned nominations for Record Of The Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video. The album itself also scored nods for Album Of The Year and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2022 GRAMMYs.
PHOTO: Denise Truscello/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Jon Batiste's "Freedom" Wins Best Music Video | 2022 GRAMMYs
New Orleans-set "Freedom" by Jon Batiste wins Best Music Video at the 2022 GRAMMYs
Jon Batiste won Best Music Video for "Freedom,” off his album We Are, at the 2022 GRAMMYs. The Best Music Video award is Batiste’s third win of the 2022 GRAMMYs and the 14th nomination of his career.
“I am so grateful for the gifts that God has given me and the ability to share that for the love of humankind,” Batiste said onstage, next to director Alan Ferguson and video producer Alex P. Willson. The video for “Freedom” was shot “in my home town of New Orleans and we just wanted everybody to see it and be transformed with joy. Any depression, any darkness and bondage that was in your life, to be removed with this video.”
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2022 GRAMMYs.