@ the Royal Albert Hall
1 July 2012
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Credit to Roger Thomas for his kind assistance
in creating this page!
Tony Bennett is one of the most successful legendary jazz and popular
musicians of our time, with a thriving career spanning over half
He was born Antonio Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926 in Queens,
New York. When he was only nine, Bennett lost his father. He was
raised by his mother, a seamstress, and his uncle, a tap dancer.
Bennett took an early interest in the arts, and began to attend
the New York High School of Industrial Arts, where he spent the
majority of his childhood studying music and painting. When Bennett
was 16, the depression took hold and he was forced to drop out of
school in order to support his struggling family as a singing waiter
in Italian restaurants.
In 1944, Bennett was drafted into the US Army where he served on
the front lines as an infantry rifleman. Following the end of World
War II he sang with the military band under the stage name “Joe
Bari.” In 1946 he returned to America, where he took advantage
of the G.I. Bill and studied singing and acting at the American
Theatre Wing. It was here that he began imitating the sounds of
instruments in his singing, a skill that would provide him with
his own unique style; and where he learned the
‘bel canto’ singing discipline that would keep his voice
in perfect shape for the entirety of his career.
Tony Bennett was awarded his first big break in 1949 when he was
asked to open for Pearl Bailey. Bob Hope was in the audience and
immediately recognised Bennett’s talent, deciding to take
him on the road under the more simplified name “Tony Bennett.”
By 1950 Bennett was signed to Columbia Records and working with
record producer Mitch Miller.
In 1951, Bennett first hit, “Because of You,” sold
over 1 million copies and held the top spot on the radio charts
for ten weeks. Over the next 3 years Bennett put out 3 more #1 hits;
“Blue Velvet,” “Rags to Riches,” and “Stranger
On February 12, 1952 Bennett married Patricia Beech, an Ohio art
student and avid jazz fan. The day of the wedding, two thousand
female fans dressed in black and gathered outside of New York’s
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in mock mourning. Two years later
the happy couple gave birth to their first son D’Andrea, and
the following year they had their second son Daegal.
In 1956 Bennett broadened his horizons and ventured into the television
industry with his hosting position on ‘The Tony Bennett Show.’
In June of 1962 he held a legendary concert at Carnegie Hall in
which 44 of his most notable songs were featured. Later that same
year, he released “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,”
a ballad that would eventually become his signature song. The song
won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal
1965 brought with it a turn of events. With the pressures of life
on the road, his marriage became strained and he and his wife divorced.
In 1966 Bennett’s first film role in ‘The Oscar’
debuted to poor reviews and uninterested audiences. Eventually the
turmoil touched his singing career and artistic differences between
Bennett and Columbia Records began to emerge. After 20 years of
recording, Bennett left Columbia Records in 1972 for a short stint
with his own label and others, before taking a long hiatus from
Bennett’s problems resulted in a drug habit, coupled with
spiralling debts which led to bankruptcy and eventually the IRS
attempting to seize his Los Angeles home. His second marriage was
also troubled. In 1979 a near-fatal drug overdose finally provided
Bennett the perspective he needed to seek out help. He sought out
his son Danny, who signed on as his father’s manager and eventually
helped to turn his career back around.
Bennett made a remarkable comeback in the late 1980’s and
1990’s, appearing on late-night television shows such as David
Letterman and Jay Leno. He lent his voice to the animated television
series The Simpsons, and made a guest appearance on MTV Unplugged.
His apparent effort to widen his fan base helped out his career
tremendously. He now has a recording contract with his old label,
Columbia, in which he has complete creative freedom. In 1996 he
published Tony Bennett: What My Heart Has Seen, a collection of
his paintings, and then in 1998 he put out his autobiography titled
The Good Life.
Tony Bennett has sold over 50 million records worldwide, is a published
author, and a successful painter. He has been inducted into the
Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame, and in 2002 received a lifetime
achievement award from ASCAP. He has won fifteen Grammy Awards,
two Emmy Awards, and the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters
Award. Tony Bennett remains a popular recording artist today. In
June of 2009 Bennett announced he would begin a new tour, bringing
the classics and new favourites to over thirty cities.