Tony Bennett Biography
Tony Bennett Biography
Claim to Fame: Jazz Singer
DOB: August 3, 1926
Diabetes Type: Type 1
Tony Bennett is one of the most successful legendary jazz and popular musicians of our time, with a thriving career spanning over half a century.
He was born Antonio Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926 in Queens, New York. When he was only nine, Tony lost his father. He was raised by his mother, a seamstress, and his uncle, a tap dancer. Tony 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 Tony was 16, the Depression took hold and Tony was forced to drop out of school in order to support his struggling family as a singing waiter in Italian restaurants.
In 1944, Tony was drafted into the US Army where he served on the front lines as an infantry rifleman. Following the end of World War II, Tony 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 recognized Tony’s talent, deciding to take him on the road under the more simplified name "Tony Bennett." By 1950 Tony was signed to Columbia Records and working with record producer Mitch Miller.
In 1951, Tony’s 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 in Paradise."
On February 12, 1952 Tony 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 Tony 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 Performance.
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 Tony’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 Tony and Columbia Records began to emerge. After 20 years of recording, Tony left Columbia Records in 1972 for a short stint with his own label and others, before taking a long hiatus from recording entirely.
Tony’s problems resulted in a drug habit, with addictions to marijuana and cocaine. His debts grew into bankruptcy and eventually the IRS attempted to seize his Los Angeles home. His second marriage was also troubled. In 1979 a near-fatal drug overdose finally provided Tony 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.
Tony 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 ony 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 favorites to over thirty cities.
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