Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, in Queens, New York, August 3, 1926, Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, show tunes and jazz. Bennett grew up in a poor family, in circumstances made more difficult by the death of his father, when he was nine-years-old; yet he went on to attend high school for the Industrial Arts in New Yorck City and began working as a singing waiter.
After fighting in the Army infantry during World War II, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and studied singing and acting at the American Theatre Wing.
*G.I. Bill: officially titled “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act” of 1944, was a bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (or G.I.s).
During this period his vocal coach Mimi Spear offered some advice that he took to heart: “Don’t imitate other singers, emulate instrimentalists instead.”
Bennett was widely popular in the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s. His signature song is “I Left my Heart in San Francisco.”
In 1949, Bennett was discovered by Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village and was hired by Bob Hope. Hope advised him to take the name ‘Tony Bennett,’ and put him in his own road show.
He signed with Columbia Records in 1950 and started working with record producer Mitch Miller. His early hits included “Rags To Riches,” “Because of You,” and “Stranger in Paradise.” His most famous song, and his all-time hit, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” earned Bennett his first Grammy award.
Bennett’s success lef to some artistic differences between the singer and his record company. His interest in singing quality material made him want to try new songs and new kinds of music; Columbia, however, wanted to repeat the style of his early hits. Bennett and Miller compromised by each selecting one half of the material to be recorded.
After twenty-years of recording with Columbia Records, he was told not to do any new songs. Company management wanted Bennett to cover top ten hits. Shortly after, Bennett ended his relationship with the company, formed his own label, and recorded on others. After staying away from the studios for about ten years or so, he made the 1986 album “The Art of Excellence.”
In the late 1970s, Bennett moved to California and began using cocaine and marijuana, drugs that were an intergral part of the celebrity party scene. After his near death experiences, passing out in the bath tub and the memory of Lenny Bruce’s drug0related death scared Bennett into changing his habits.
If his singing has impressed you enough, Bennett also published two books in during the 1990s, that gave fans an inside look into his personal life and career.
In the begining of his career, pop music appealed to all ages. Bennett asserted that young listeners were being taught that rock and roll was specifically apart of their generation and that it alienated them from their parents. Music marketing was focused on young listeners, and Bennett struggled to change that; trying to appeal to both young listeners and the adults.
Bennett went through weathered troubles and good days with his career. He credit his son Danny, who is currently his manager, with making key decisions and ‘having his back’ no matter. Danny put Bennett on television, on the animated series “The Simpsons,” on talk shows with David Letterman and Jay Leno, and on MTV’s “Unplugged.”
His latest appearance has earned the singer a flock of young fans.
Today, Bennett has a recording contract with Columbia that allows him to turn in his finished record, with no corporate input on content — guess Columbia learned their lesson the first time around — don’t let a Classic go!
Latest Grammy-winning recordings include: MTV’s “Unplugged: A Series of Tribute Albums,” “Bennett/Berlin,” “Perfectly Frank (as in Frank Sinatra),” “Tony Bennett on Holiday (Bully Holiday),” “Here’s to the Ladies,” and the children’s album, “The Playground.”
Recordings like these demonstrate that Bennett still has plenty of ideas about the music he wants to sing, and that he is still going strong.
Random fact: Bennett’s favorite singing technique is “bel canto,” which teaches you how to breathe properly and how to sing so that you don’t push and you don’t destroy your voice; a technique all singers should ace.
To mark his 80th Birthday in 2006, he released “Tony Bennett: Duets — An American Classic,” recorded with a collection of stars including Sting, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Bono and Barbra Streisand.
Tony Bennett will be performing live at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, at 100 South Street, Morristown, New Jersey (07960), Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets go on sale this Friday, November 11th.
Please call Mayo, box office for ticket sale information at (973) 539-8008. You may also visit www.MayoArts.org for further information and upcoming events.