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As Tony Bennett approaches his seventh decade of international renown and heartfelt devotion to his fans and family, his star continues to rise.
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens in New York City, Tony Bennett seemed destined for a career in music. Growng up, listening to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, and Joe Venuti. young Bennett's fate was sealed
Performing professionally by the age of ten, Tony Bennett would soon attended New York's High School of Industrial Art, studing music and painting, but dropped out at age 16 to help support his family.
After a brie stint in US Army, Tony Bennett studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill. Tony Bennett was taught the bel canto singing discipline, which would keep his voice in good shape for his entire career.
In 1949, Tony was spotted by Pearl Bailey and asked to open for her in Greenwich Village. A year later, Tony Bennett was signed to Columbia Records by Mitch Miller.
Tony Bennett's first big hit came in 1951 and was "Because of You", a ballad produced by Miller with a lush orchestral arrangement from Percy Faith. Bennett followed with a rendition of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart."
Bennett's third #1 single came in 1953 with "Rags to Riches". Later that year Bennett began singing show tunes to make up for a New York newspaper strike; "Stranger in Paradise" from the Broadway show Kismet reached the top, as well as being a #1 hit in the United Kingdom and starting Bennett's career as an international artist.
Through the rest of the '50s, Bennett continued to enjoy success, placing 8 songs in the Billboard Top 40.
In 1956 Bennett hosted the television variety show The Tony Bennett Show.
Bennett released his first jazz album, Beat of My Heart, in 1957. It featured Herbie Mann and Nat Adderley, and precussionists Art Blakey, Jo Jones, Latin star Candido, and Chico Hamilton. The album was both popular and critically praised.
Tony Bennett followed this by working with the Count Basie Orchestra, becoming the first male pop vocalist to sing with Basie's band. This collaboration spawned the albums Basie Swings, Bennett Sings (1958) and In Person! Tony Bennett/Count Basie and his Orchestra (1959.) Also in 1962, Tony Bennett released what would become his singnature song "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". The song won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance. In 2001 it was ranked 23rd on an RIAA/NEA list of the most historically significant Songs of the 20th Century.
Tony Bennet has always been a firm believer in the American Civil Rights movement, and Tony Bennett participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. Years later he would continue this commitment by refusing to perform in apartheid South Africa.
As 1965 came and went, so did the public's taste for standards and jazz crooners and Tony Bennett's career hit the skids for next couple of decades. But never forget, Tony Bennett is a fighter and would go on to make a triumphant comeback.
By the mid-1980s, the excesses of the disco, punk rock, and new wave eras had given many artists and listeners a greater appreciation for the classic American song. Tony Bennett's son, Danny Bennett, felt strongly that younger audiences, although completely unfamiliar with Tony Bennett, would respond to his music if only given a chance to see and hear it.
Accordingly, Tony Bennett began to appear on shows with younger audiences, like late night TV, The Simpsons, and various MTV programs. The plan worked and Tony Bennet was a star again.
Bennett returned to the recording studio and released Portrait of the Artist in 1990, an homage to Sinatra titled Perfectly Frank (1992), and the Fred Astaire tribute Steppin' Out (1993). The latter two both achieved gold status and won Grammies for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, Bennett's first Grammy since 1962.
Bennett's new audience peaked with his appearance in 1994 on MTV Unplugged. Featuring guest appearances by rock and country stars Elvis Costello and K.D. Lang, the show attracted a considerable audience and much media attention. The resulting album went platinum and, besides taking the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance Grammy award, it also won the top Grammy prize of Album of the Year. At age 68, Tony Bennett had come all the way back.
Since then, Tony Bennett has continued to record and tour steadily. In concert, Bennett often makes a point of singing one song (usually "Fly Me to the Moon") without any microphone or amplification, demonstrating to younger audience members the lost art of vocal projection. One show, Tony Bennett's Wonderful World: Live From San Francisco, was made into a PBS special. Bennett also created the idea behind, and starred in the first, of the A&E Network's Live By Request series, for which he won an Emmy Award.
Tony Bennett's career as a painter has also flourished. Painting under his real name of Benedetto, he has exhibited his work in numerous galleries and has been commissioned by the Kentucky Derby and the United Nations. His paintings have been featured in ARTNews and other magazines. Many of his works were published in the art book Tony Bennett: What My Heart Has Seen in 1996.
Tony Bennett also published The Good Life: The Autobiography of Tony Bennett in 1998.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Tony Bennett has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Tony Bennett was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997.
Tony Bennett received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 2002.
Incredibly, in 2002, Tony Bennett found himself on Q magazine's "50 Bands To See Before You Die" list.
Tony Bennett frequently donates his time to charitable causes, to the extent that he is sometimes nicknamed "Tony Benefit".
On December 4, 2005, Bennett was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.