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21 Jul, 2023 14:43

Legendary singer Tony Bennett dies at 96

The world-renowned crooner won 20 Grammy awards in an eight-decade career
Legendary singer Tony Bennett dies at 96

Tony Bennett, the award-winning pop and jazz singer whose extensive career saw him collaborate with stars ranging from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga, has died at the age of 96, his publicist Sylvia Weiner announced on Friday.

Bennett passed away in his hometown of New York, Weiner told the Associated Press. She did not specify the cause of death, but Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

Often considered to be the last of America’s great crooners, Bennett released more than 70 albums and is regarded as the only performer to have had new material reach the US charts in every decade between the 1950s and the 2020s. In 2014, he became the oldest living artist to reach number one in the Billboard 200 album charts – breaking his own record in the process.

His 1962 hit ‘(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco’ earned Bennett the first two of what would ultimately be 20 Grammy awards across his career, including a lifetime achievement accolade. He will also be remembered for a string of other hits, including ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ and ‘Body and Soul’ – both of which became 20th century pop standards.

Frank Sinatra, who was Bennett’s childhood idol, described him in a 1965 interview with Life magazine as “the best singer in the business.” Sinatra added: “He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.”

Bennett’s age throughout the latter part of his career was not a barrier to his creativity. He was in his late 80s when he recorded a duet album with American pop star Lady Gaga, and also collaborated with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and U2’s frontman Bono. A 2011 duet with the late English singer Amy Winehouse was the final song she recorded before her death.

The veteran singer, a lifelong Democrat, was also a strong supporter of the civil rights movement in the United States, and refused invitations to perform in South Africa during apartheid. He was drafted into the US Army in the final stages of World War II in November 1944, and in March 1945 fought on the front line as US forces moved through France and into Germany.

Soon after his 90th birthday, Bennett told the New York Times: “I could have retired 16 years ago, but I just love what I’m doing.” He performed his final concert in New York’s Radio City Music Hall on August 5, 2021 alongside Lady Gaga – six years after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.