from rags to riches! Tony Bennett He’s had a long and successful career as a jazz artist — but the “Because of You” singer started with humble beginnings.
The 19-time Grammy Award winner (real name Anthony Dominic Benedetto) was born in Queens, New York in 1926 to a low-income family. His father, Giovanni “John” Benedetto, was a grocer and his mother, Anna Maria Surci, was a seamstress. The Great Depression hit the family hard as John’s health declined. He died by the time Bennett was 10 years old.
The New York native began singing at an early age and practiced waiting tables to help support his family financially. In a 1966 interview with Jazz Professional, Bennett said, “I started when I was about 6 years old. I’ve never met an Italian-born family in America that wasn’t musical.”
The “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” artist got her big break in 1949, when vaudeville singer Pearl Bailey invited her to open her concert series in Greenwich Village. Entertainer Bob Hope attended one performance and offered Bennett a spot in his show at the Paramount Theatre. At the time, Bennett was going by the stage name Joe Bari and it was hoped that he suggested changing it to Tony Bennett.
A year later, the singer signed with Columbia Records and released chart-topping songs including “Because of You” and “Blue Velvet”. He won his first Grammy in 1962 for his recording of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and would go on to win a total of 19 with 41 nominations.
Gaining popularity with younger audiences, Bennett stayed in the limelight for decades, even as pop music began to shift and change in the ’90s. Their 1994 appearance on MTV Unplugged resulted in a platinum album and a Grammy win for Album of the Year.
Bennett continued to achieve great success and recognition in the 2000s, including being honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 and receiving the Kennedy Center Honors Award four years later. In 2011 he started a close friendship with Lady Gagawho would become frequent allies over the next decade.
Bennett and “Just Dance” artist release Grammy-winning album cheek to cheek in 2014, earning Bennett – who was 88 at the time – a Guinness World Record for “the oldest person to reach No. 1 on the US Albums Chart with a newly recorded album”. The duo also released a concert special, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live!, in celebration of the record’s popularity. Bennett’s final album was slated for release in September 2021, and was titled Another Collaborative Effort with Gaga love for Sale,
A month earlier, Bennett announced his retirement when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Their final live and recorded performances with the “Shallow” artist were turned into a TV special, One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady GagaWhich started in November of the same year.
During the immense success of the “Love For Sale” singer’s career, she has also found love many times. Bennett married his first wife, Patricia Beachin 1952, and welcomed two sons together, Danny and Dee, before finalizing their divorce in 1971. Bennett welcomed his first daughter, Joanna, with his second wife in 1970. Sandra Grant, whom he married after a divorce from Beech. The couple had another daughter, Antonia. The couple separated in 2007 and Bennett married his third wife. susan croweThat same year.
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