American crooner and jazz singer Tony Bennett has died at the age of 96.
Bennett became the torchbearer for the Great American Songbook over his seven-decade career, best known for his 1962 classic I Left My Heart In San Francisco which was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1994.
On Friday, publicist Sylvia Weiner confirmed Bennett’s death saying he died in his hometown of New York.
The statement said: “The beloved singer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2016, is survived by his wife, Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, his daughters Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett and nine grandchildren.”
It added: “In later life, when Tony Bennett was asked in interviews how he wanted to be remembered he would often say, ‘As a nice person’.”
The timeless singer was famed as one of the last of the great saloon singers of the mid-20th century, releasing more than 70 albums during his career which won him a host of Grammys.
His devotion to timeless classics such as The Way You Look Tonight and Body And Soul created a hit catalogue, but it was also his performances with singers including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga that won him plaudits.
At the age of 88, Bennett broke his own record as the oldest living performer with a number one album on the US Billboard 200 chart for his duet project with Gaga titled Cheek To Cheek.
He had topped the charts three years earlier with Duets II, featuring stars Gaga, Carrie Underwood and Winehouse, in her last studio recording.
His rapport with Winehouse was captured in the Oscar-nominated documentary Amy, which showed Bennett encouraging the insecure young singer through a performance of Body And Soul.
Bennett’s final album in 2021 titled Love For Sale, featured duets with Gaga on the title track, Night And Day and other Cole Porter songs, and won him his last Grammy award.
The crooner moved easily between pop and jazz, and his collaborations were part of his push to expose new audiences to what he called the Great American Songbook.
He retired from performing in 2021 after revealing he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016.
Bennett was born in Queens, New York, in 1926, the grandson of immigrants from the impoverished Italian province of Calabria.
He enjoyed a glorious career since first finding success in the 1950s, performing traditional pop standards and big band music.
Bennett’s breakthrough came in 1951 with his first number one Because Of You, and his success continued throughout the decade with hits including Blue Velvet and Rags To Riches.
In 1962, his version of I Left My Heart In San Francisco rocketed him to international stardom, winning his first two Grammys.
In 2006, he collaborated with stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Stevie Wonder and George Michael on his album titled Duets: An American Classic.
Bennett became a life-long pacifist and humanitarian after serving as a foot soldier in the Second World War.
Having painted for most of his life, Bennett co-founded non-profit organisation Exploring The Arts, dedicated to strengthening the role of the arts in public high school education.
Ellie Iorizzo – PA