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Tony Bennett

Tony BennettAKA Anthony Dominick Benedetto

Born: 3-Aug-1926 [1]
Birthplace: New York City [2]

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer, Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Left his heart in San Francisco

Military service: US Army (WWII, 63rd Infantry)

Tony Bennett might be the last of the pre-rock crooners. His smooth, relaxed, from-the-heart singing went out of style long ago, and there were many years when Bennett seemed absent from music, but he has been singing for so long, he does enjoy periodic resurgences in popularity. Perhaps because he has occasionally been out of style, he signs autographs without complaint, buys his own cigarettes, tours without bodyguards, and tips generously. Those who have encountered him -- fans, waiters, taxicab drivers -- describe him as just a nice, seemingly ordinary guy.

When he was barely 10, Bennett's father died of pneumonia, and his mother made ends meet by working as a seamstress. By his late teens, young Anthony was working as a singing waiter, then drifting from bar to bar for discreet after-hours jam sessions with more professional entertainers. He served in the Army in World War II, and seeing the horrors of battle turned him to pacifism. Returning home, he took advantage of the GI Bill to study painting, and for several years he took singing lessons by day and occasionally found low-paying bookings at noisy night clubs.

In 1950, Pearl Bailey heard him sing, and asked him to join her at a Greenwich Village night club, where Bennett's was the only white face on the stage. After several weeks, Bailey burst into his dressing room with a friend -- Bob Hope, and after Hope heard him sing he asked Bennett to join his touring stage show. It was Hope who shortened Bennett's long birth name to make him Tony Bennett. Bennett was eventually signed by Mitch Miller, after winning a radio talent competition called Songs for Sale. He had numerous finger-snapping hits in the 1950s, including the definitive recordings of such standards as "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Because of You", and "Rags to Riches". As the 1960s began his star faded, but after a few wane years he staged a comeback with "I Wanna Be Around to Pick Up the Pieces" and especially, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" -- not his biggest hit when it was first released, but the song became his signature tune.

By the late 1960s Bennett's popularity had faded as rock'n'roll came to the forefront. Bennett briefly considered following his friend Frank Sinatra into movies, and took a supporting role in a 1966 drama, The Oscar, with Stephen Boyd and Elke Sommer. He was not particularly good as an actor, and friend Cary Grant good-naturedly advised him to keep singing. He moved to London and between infrequent singing engagements he quietly returned to painting, another field where he has had some success. With his son as his manager, by the mid-1980s Bennett was booked to perform alongside a younger generation of artists, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and kd lang. His albums began selling more briskly, and his concerts again started selling out.

Politically he is a middle-of-the-road Democrat. He was quietly involved in the early-60s civil rights movement, and he is still proud that he was the first white singer to record with Count Basie's band.


[1] Tony Bennett, The Good Life (1998), page 15.

[2] St. John's Hospital, New York City.

Father: John Benedetto
Mother: Anna Suraci
Wife: Patricia Beech (m. 12-Feb-1952, separated 1965, div. 1971)
Son: D'Andrea ("Danny", b. 1954)
Son: Daegal ("Dae")
Wife: Sandra Grant ("Sandy", m. 29-Dec-1971, div. 1984, two daughters)
Daughter: Joanna (b. 1970)
Daughter: Antonia Bennett (jazz singer, b. 7-Apr-1974)
Wife: Susan Crow (m. 21-Jun-2007)

    High School: High School of Industrial Art, New York City (dropped out)

    Grammy 1962 for I Left My Heart in San Francisco (male vocal)
    Grammy 1962 for I Left My Heart in San Francisco (best record)
    Grammy 1994 for MTV Unplugged (best record)
    Grammy 1994 for MTV Unplugged (traditional pop vocal)
    Grammy 1997 for Tony Bennett on Holiday (traditional performance)
    Emmy 1996 for Tony Bennett Live by Request: A Valentine Special
    Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame 1997
    Library of Congress Living Legend 2000
    NEA Jazz Master 2006
    Endorsement of Visa 1998
    Wedding: David Gest and Liza Minnelli (2002)
    Wedding: Donald Trump and Melania Knauss (2005)
    Funeral: Ted Kennedy (2009)
    Hernia Operation Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC (Dec-1996)
    Italian Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Marijuana, Cocaine, Smoking

    FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
    Muppets Most Wanted (19-Mar-2014) · Himself
    The Zen of Bennett (18-Apr-2012) · Himself
    Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song (Jan-2011) · Himself
    Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (12-Sep-2009) · Himself
    Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth (May-2008)
    Bruce Almighty (14-May-2003) · Himself
    Analyze This (5-Mar-1999) · Himself
    The Scout (30-Sep-1994) · Himself
    King (12-Feb-1978) · Himself
    The Oscar (4-Mar-1966) · Hymie Kelly
    Come Next Spring (9-Mar-1956) [VOICE]

Official Website:
http://www.tonybennett.net/

Author of books:
The Good Life: An Autobiography of Tony Bennett (1998, memoir)


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