Anthony Dominick Benedetto (born August 3, 1926), known
professionally as Tony Bennett, is an American singer of traditional
pop standards, big band, show tunes, and jazz. He is also a painter,
having created works under the name Anthony Benedetto that are on
permanent public display in several institutions. He is the founder of
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.
Born and raised in
Astoria to an
Italian-American family, Bennett
began singing at an early age. He fought in the final stages of World
War II as a U.S. Army infantryman in the European Theater. Afterward,
he developed his singing technique, signed with
Columbia Records and
had his first number-one popular song with "Because of You" in 1951.
Several top hits such as "Rags to Riches" followed in the early 1950s.
He then refined his approach to encompass jazz singing. He reached an
artistic peak in the late 1950s with albums such as The Beat of My
Heart and Basie Swings, Bennett Sings. In 1962, Bennett recorded his
signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". His career and his
personal life experienced an extended downturn during the height of
the rock music era.
Bennett staged a comeback in the late 1980s and 1990s, putting out
gold record albums again and expanding his reach to the
while keeping his musical style intact. He remains a popular and
critically praised recording artist and concert performer in the
2010s. He has won 19 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement
Award, presented in 2001) and two Emmy Awards, and was named an NEA
Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. Bennett has sold over 50
million records worldwide.
1 Life and career
1.1 1926–1943: Early life
World War II
World War II and after
1.3 1951–1959: First successes
1.4 1954–1965: A growing artistry
1.5 1965–1979: Years of struggle
1.6 1979–1989: Turnaround
1.7 1990–1995: An unexpected audience
1.8 1996–2006: Into his 70s and no retirement
1.9 2006–present: Bennett going strong through his 80s and 91st
2.2 Musical style
3 Awards and recognition
5 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Life and career
1926–1943: Early life
Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born on August 3, 1926, in the Astoria
neighborhood of New York City's
Queens borough to grocer John
Benedetto and seamstress Anna Suraci. In 1906, John had emigrated
from Podàrgoni, a rural eastern district of the southern Italian
city of Reggio Calabria. Anna had been born in the U.S. shortly after
her parents also emigrated from the
Calabria region in 1899.
Other relatives came over as well as part of the mass migration of
Italians to America. Tony grew up with an older sister, Mary, and
an older brother, John Jr. With a father who was ailing and
unable to work, the children grew up in poverty. John Sr. instilled
in his son a love of art and literature and a compassion for human
suffering, but died when Tony was 10 years old. The experience
of growing up in the
Great Depression and a distaste for the effects
Hoover Administration would make the child a lifelong
Bennett grew up listening to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland,
Bing Crosby as well as jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Jack
Teagarden, and Joe Venuti. His Uncle Dick was a tap dancer in
vaudeville, giving him an early window into show business, and his
Uncle Frank was the
Queens borough library commissioner. By age 10
he was already singing, and performed at the opening of the Triborough
Bridge, standing next to Mayor
Fiorello La Guardia
Fiorello La Guardia who patted him
on the head.
Drawing was another early passion of his; he
became known as the class caricaturist at P.S. 141 and anticipated a
career in commercial art. He began singing for money at age 13,
performing as a singing waiter in several Italian restaurants around
his native Queens.
He attended New York's School of Industrial Art where he studied
painting and music and would later appreciate their emphasis on
proper technique. But he dropped out at age 16 to help support his
family. He worked as a copy boy and runner for the Associated
Press in Manhattan and in several other low-skilled, low-paying
jobs. However, he mostly set his sights on a professional singing
career, returning to performing as a singing waiter, playing and
winning amateur nights all around the city, and having a successful
engagement at a Paramus, New Jersey, nightclub.
World War II
World War II and after
Benedetto was drafted into the
United States Army
United States Army in November 1944,
during the final stages of World War II. He did basic training
Fort Dix and
Fort Robinson as part of becoming an infantry
rifleman. Benedetto ran afoul of a sergeant from the South who
disliked the Italian from
New York City
New York City and heavy doses of
KP duty or
BAR cleaning resulted. Processed through the huge Le Havre
replacement depot, in January 1945, he was assigned as a replacement
infantryman to the 255th
Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Infantry
Division, a unit filling in for the heavy losses suffered in the
Battle of the Bulge. He moved across France, and later, into
Germany. As March 1945 began, he joined the front line and what he
would later describe as a "front-row seat in hell."
As the German Army was pushed back to its homeland, Benedetto and his
company saw bitter fighting in cold winter conditions, often hunkering
down in foxholes as German 88 mm guns fired on them. At the end of
March, they crossed the
Rhine and entered Germany, engaging in
dangerous house-to-house, town-after-town fighting to clean out German
soldiers; during the first week of April, they crossed the Kocher
River, and by the end of the month reached the Danube. During his
time in combat, Benedetto narrowly escaped death several times. The
experience made him a pacifist; he would later write, "Anybody who
thinks that war is romantic obviously hasn't gone through one,"
and later say, "It was a nightmare that's permanent. I just said,
'This is not life. This is not life.'" At the war's conclusion he
was involved in the liberation of a
Nazi concentration camp
Nazi concentration camp near
Landsberg, where some American prisoners of war from the 63rd
Division had also been held.
Benedetto stayed in Germany as part of the occupying force, but was
assigned to an informal
Special Services band unit that would
entertain nearby American forces. His dining with a black friend
from high school – at a time when the Army was still racially
segregated – led to his being demoted and reassigned to Graves
Registration Service duties. Subsequently, he sang with the 314th
Special Services Band under the stage name Joe Bari (a name
he had started using before the war, chosen after the city and
province in Italy and as a partial anagram of his family origins in
Calabria). He played with many musicians who would have post-war
Upon his discharge from the Army and return to the States in 1946,
Benedetto studied at the
American Theatre Wing
American Theatre Wing on the GI Bill. He
was taught the bel canto singing discipline, which would keep his
voice in good shape for his entire career. He continued to perform
wherever he could, including while waiting tables. Based upon a
suggestion from a teacher at American Theatre Wing, he developed an
unusual approach that involved imitating, as he sang, the style and
phrasing of other musicians — such as that of Stan Getz's saxophone
and Art Tatum's piano — helping him to improvise as he interpreted a
song. He made a few recordings as
Bari in 1949 for small
Leslie Records, but they failed to sell.
Pearl Bailey recognized Benedetto's talent and asked him to
open for her in Greenwich Village. She had invited
Bob Hope to the
show. Hope decided to take Benedetto on the road with him, and
simplified his name to Tony Bennett. In 1950, Bennett cut a demo
of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and was signed to the major Columbia
Records label by Mitch Miller.
1951–1959: First successes
Warned by Miller not to imitate Frank Sinatra (who was just then
leaving Columbia), Bennett began his career as a crooner of commercial
pop tunes. His first big hit was "Because of You", a ballad produced
by Miller with a lush orchestral arrangement from Percy Faith. It
started out gaining popularity on jukeboxes, then reached number one
on the pop charts in 1951 and stayed there for ten weeks, selling
over a million copies. This was followed to the top of the charts
later that year by a similarly-styled rendition of Hank Williams's
"Cold, Cold Heart", which helped introduce Williams and country music
in general to a wider, more national audience. The Miller and
Faith tandem continued to work on all of Bennett's early hits.
Bennett's recording of "Blue Velvet" was also very popular and
attracted screaming teenaged fans at concerts at the famed Paramount
Theater in New York (Bennett did seven shows a day, starting at
10:30 a.m.) and elsewhere.
On February 12, 1952, Bennett married Ohio art student and jazz
fan Patricia Beech, whom he had met the previous year after a
nightclub performance in Cleveland. Two thousand female fans
dressed in black gathered outside the ceremony at St. Patrick's
Cathedral in Manhattan, New York, in mock mourning. The couple had
two sons, D'Andrea (Danny, born 1954) and Daegal (Dae, born 1955).
Bennett (right) with Chicago columnist and talk show host Irv
Kupcinet, during the 1950s
A third number-one came in 1953 with "Rags to Riches". Unlike
Bennett's other early hits, this was an up-tempo big band number with
a bold, brassy sound and a double tango in the instrumental break; it
topped the charts for eight weeks. Later that year, the producers
of the upcoming Broadway musical Kismet had Bennett record "Stranger
in Paradise" as a way of promoting the show during a New York
newspaper strike. The song reached the top, the show was a hit,
and Bennett began a long practice of recording show tunes.
"Stranger in Paradise" was also a number-one hit in the United Kingdom
a year and a half later and started Bennett's career as an
Once the rock and roll era began in 1955, the dynamic of the music
industry changed and it became harder and harder for existing pop
singers to do well commercially. Nevertheless, Bennett continued
to enjoy success, placing eight songs in the Billboard Top 40 during
the latter part of the 1950s, with "In the Middle of an Island"
reaching the highest at number nine in 1957.
For a month in August–September 1956, Bennett hosted a
night television variety show, The
Tony Bennett Show, as a summer
replacement for The
Perry Como Show.
Patti Page and Julius La Rosa
had in turn hosted the two previous months, and they all shared the
same singers, dancers, and orchestra. In 1959, Bennett would again
fill in for The
Perry Como Show, this time alongside
Teresa Brewer and
Jaye P. Morgan
Jaye P. Morgan as co-hosts of the summer-long Perry Presents.
1954–1965: A growing artistry
In 1954, the guitarist
Chuck Wayne became Bennett's musical
director. Bennett released his first long-playing album in 1955,
Cloud 7. The album was billed as featuring Wayne and showed Bennett's
leanings towards jazz. In 1957,
Ralph Sharon became Bennett's pianist,
arranger, and musical director, replacing Wayne. Sharon told
Bennett that a career singing "sweet saccharine songs like 'Blue
Velvet'" wouldn't last long, and encouraged Bennett to focus even more
on his jazz inclinations.
The result was the 1957 album The Beat of My Heart. It used well-known
jazz musicians such as
Herbie Mann and Nat Adderley, with a strong
emphasis on percussion from the likes of Art Blakey, Jo Jones, Latin
star Candido Camero, and Chico Hamilton. The album was both popular
and critically praised. Bennett followed this by working with
Count Basie Orchestra, becoming the first male pop vocalist to
sing with Basie's band. The albums Basie Swings, Bennett Sings
In Person! (1959) were the well-regarded fruits of this
collaboration, with "Chicago" being one of the standout songs.
Bennett (right) with composer Harold Arlen, rehearsing for the
television program The Twentieth Century in 1964
Bennett also built up the quality, and therefore, the reputation of
his nightclub act; in this he was following the path of Sinatra and
other top jazz and standards singers of this era. In June 1962,
Bennett staged a highly promoted concert performance at Carnegie Hall,
using a stellar line-up of musicians including Al Cohn, Kenny Burrell,
and Candido, as well as the
Ralph Sharon Trio. The concert featured 44
songs, including favorites like "I've Got the World on a String" and
"The Best Is Yet To Come". It was a big success, further cementing
Bennett's reputation as a star both at home and abroad.
Bennett also appeared on television, and in October 1962 he sang on
the initial broadcast of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Also in 1962, Bennett released his recording of "I Left My Heart in
San Francisco", a decade-old but little-known song originally written
for an opera singer. Although this reached only number 19 on the
Billboard Hot 100, it spent close to a year on various other
charts and increased Bennett's exposure. The album of the same
title was a top 5 hit and both the single and album achieved gold
record status. The song won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year
and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance. Over the years, this would
become known as Bennett's signature song. In 2001, it was
ranked 23rd on an RIAA/NEA list of the most historically significant
Songs of the 20th Century.
"For my money,
Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. 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."
—Frank Sinatra, in a 1965 Life magazine interview
Bennett's following album,
I Wanna Be Around... (1963), was also a
top-5 success, with the title track and "The Good Life" each
reaching the top 20 of the pop singles chart along with the top 10
of the Adult Contemporary chart.
The next year brought the Beatles and the British Invasion, and with
them still more musical and cultural attention to rock and less to
pop, standards, and jazz. Over the next couple of years, Bennett had
minor hits with several albums and singles based on show tunes; his
last top-40 single was the number 34 "If I Ruled the World" from
Pickwick in 1965, but his commercial fortunes were clearly
starting to decline. An attempt to break into acting with a role in
the poorly received 1966 film The Oscar met with middling reviews for
Bennett; he did not enjoy the experience and did not seek further
A firm believer in the Civil Rights Movement, Bennett participated
in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. Years later he would
continue this commitment by refusing to perform in apartheid South
1965–1979: Years of struggle
Ralph Sharon and Bennett parted ways in 1965. There was great
pressure on singers such as
Lena Horne and
Barbra Streisand to record
"contemporary" rock songs, and in this vein, Columbia Records' Clive
Davis suggested that Bennett do the same. Bennett was very
reluctant, and when he tried, the results pleased no one. This was
Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!
Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! (1970), before
which Bennett became physically ill at the thought of recording.
It featured misguided attempts at Beatles and other current songs and
a ludicrous psychedelic art cover.
Years later, Bennett would recall his dismay at being asked to do
contemporary material, comparing it to when his mother was forced to
produce a cheap dress. By 1972, he had departed Columbia for the
Verve division of
MGM Records (Philips in the UK) and had relocated
for a stint in London, where he hosted a television show from the Talk
of the Town nightclub in conjunction with Thames Television, Tony
Bennett at the
Talk of the Town. With his new label, he
tried a variety of approaches, including some more Beatles material,
but found no renewed commercial success, and in a couple more years he
was without a recording contract.
Bennett and his wife Patricia had been separated since 1965, their
marriage a victim of Bennett's spending too much time on the road,
among other factors. In 1969, Patricia sued him for divorce on
grounds of adultery. In 1971, their divorce became official.
Bennett had become involved with aspiring actress
Sandra Grant while
filming The Oscar in 1965; the couple lived together for several
years, and on December 29, 1971, they quietly married in New York.
They had two daughters, Joanna (born 1970) and Antonia (born
1974), and moved to Los Angeles.
Taking matters into his own hands, Bennett started his own record
company, Improv. He cut some songs that would later become
favorites, such as "What is This Thing Called Love?", and made two
well-regarded albums with jazz pianist Bill Evans, The Tony
Bill Evans Album (1975) and Together Again (1976), but
Improv lacked a distribution arrangement with a major label and by
1977, it was out of business.
As the decade neared its end, Bennett had no recording contract, no
manager, and was not performing many concerts outside of Las
Vegas. His second marriage was failing; they separated in 1979
with her filing for divorce (but when the marriage officially
ended is unclear – some people say the marriage was dissolved by
court order on July 1, 1983, but there are other reports saying the
divorce papers did not become official until 2007). He had
developed a drug addiction, was living beyond his means, and had the
Internal Revenue Service
Internal Revenue Service trying to seize his
Los Angeles home.
He had hit bottom.
After a near-fatal cocaine overdose in 1979, Bennett called his sons
Danny and Dae for help. "Look, I'm lost here," he told them. "It seems
like people don't want to hear the music I make."
Danny Bennett, an aspiring musician himself, also came to a
realization. The band Danny and his brother had started, Quacky Duck
and His Barnyard Friends, had foundered and Danny's musical abilities
were limited. However, he had discovered during this time that he did
have a head for business. His father, on the other hand, had
tremendous musical talent, but was having trouble sustaining a career
from it and had little financial sense. Danny signed on as his
Danny got his father's expenses under control, moved him back to New
York, and began booking him in colleges and small theaters to get him
away from a "Vegas" image. After some effort, a successful
plan to pay back the IRS debt was put into place. The singer had
also reunited with
Ralph Sharon as his pianist and musical
director (and would remain with him until Sharon's retirement in
2002). By 1986,
Tony Bennett was re-signed to Columbia Records,
this time with creative control, and released The Art of Excellence.
This became his first album to reach the charts since 1972.
1990–1995: An unexpected audience
Danny Bennett felt that younger audiences who were unfamiliar with his
father would respond to his music if given a chance. No changes to
Tony's formal appearance, singing style, musical accompaniment (The
Ralph Sharon Trio or an orchestra), or song choice (generally the
Great American Songbook) were necessary or desirable.
Accordingly, Danny began regularly to book his father on Late Night
with David Letterman, a show with a younger, "hip" audience. This
was subsequently followed by appearances on Late Night with Conan
O'Brien, The Simpsons, Muppets Tonight, and various MTV
programs. In 1993, Bennett played a series of benefit concerts
organized by alternative rock radio stations around the country.
The plan worked; as Tony later remembered, "I realized that young
people had never heard those songs. Cole Porter, Gershwin – they
were like, 'Who wrote that?' To them, it was different. If you're
different, you stand out."
During this time, Bennett continued to record, first putting out the
acclaimed look-back Astoria: Portrait of the Artist (1990), then
emphasizing themed albums such as the Sinatra homage Perfectly Frank
(1992) and the
Fred Astaire tribute Steppin' Out (1993). The latter
two both achieved gold status and won Grammys for Best Traditional Pop
Vocal Performance (Bennett's first Grammys since 1962) and further
established Bennett as the inheritor of the mantle of a classic
As Bennett was seen at
Music Awards shows side-by-side with
the likes of the
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flavor Flav, and as his
"Steppin' Out with My Baby" video received
MTV airplay, it was
clear that, as
The New York Times
The New York Times said, "
Tony Bennett has not just
bridged the generation gap, he has demolished it. He has solidly
connected with a younger crowd weaned on rock. And there have been no
The new audience reached its height with Bennett's appearance in 1994
MTV Unplugged. (He quipped on the show, "I've been unplugged my
Featuring guest appearances by rock and country stars
Elvis Costello and k.d. lang (both of whom had an affinity for the
standards genre), the show attracted a considerable audience and much
media attention. The resulting
Tony Bennett album
went platinum and, besides taking the Best Traditional Pop Vocal
Performance Grammy award for the third straight year, also won the top
Grammy prize of Album of the Year.
1996–2006: Into his 70s and no retirement
Since his comeback, Bennett has financially prospered; by 1999, his
assets were worth $15 to 20 million. He had no intention of retiring,
saying in reference to masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jack Benny, and
Fred Astaire: "right up to the day they died, they were performing. If
you are creative, you get busier as you get older." Bennett continued
to record and tour steadily, doing a hundred shows a year by the end
of the 1990s. In concert Bennett often makes a point of singing
one song (usually "Fly Me to the Moon") without any microphone or
amplification, demonstrating his skills at 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 episode of, the A&E
Live by Request series, for which he won an Emmy
Award. In addition to numerous television guest performances,
Bennett has had cameo appearances as himself in films such as The
Scout, Analyze This, and Bruce Almighty.
In 1998 he made an unlikely but successful appearance at a mud-soaked
Glastonbury in an immaculate suit and tie. Bennett also published
The Good Life: The Autobiography of
Tony Bennett in 1998. A series of
albums, often based on themes (such as Duke Ellington, Louis
Armstrong, Billie Holiday, blues, or duets), has met with good
acceptance; Bennett has won eleven more Best Traditional Pop Vocal
Performance or Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Grammys in the
subsequent years, most recently for the year 2018. Bennett has sold
over 50 million records worldwide during his career.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush and First Lady
Laura Bush pose with the
Kennedy Center honorees: actress Julie Harris, actor Robert Redford,
singer Tina Turner, ballet dancer
Suzanne Farrell and Tony Bennett.
December 4, 2005, at a reception in the Blue Room at the White House.
Stevie Wonder at the
White House on February 25, 2009.
Accolades came to Bennett. For his contribution to the recording
Tony Bennett was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
at 1560 Vine Street. Bennett was inducted into the Big Band and
Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997, was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Award in 2001, and received a lifetime achievement award from the
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in
2002. In 2002,
Q magazine named
Tony Bennett in its list of the
"50 Bands To See Before You Die". On December 4, 2005, Bennett was
the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor. Later, a theatrical
musical revue of his songs, called I Left My Heart: A Salute to the
Tony Bennett was created and featured some of his best-known
songs such as "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", "Because of You",
and "Wonderful". The following year, Bennett was inducted into the
Music Hall of Fame.
Bennett frequently donates his time to charitable causes, to the
extent that he is sometimes nicknamed "Tony Benefit". In April
2002, he joined Michael Jackson,
Chris Tucker and former President
Bill Clinton in a fundraiser for the
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee at
New York's Apollo Theater. He has also recorded public service
announcements for Civitan International.
In the late 1980s, Bennett entered into a long-term romantic
relationship with Susan Crow, a former New York City
schoolteacher. She is usually reported as being 33 years his
junior, although a few sources indicate the gap is
40 years. Crow had grown up in a family of Bennett fans and
as it happened the singer had once posed with Crow's mother while she
was pregnant with her. And as a teenager, Crow had been the head
of the Bay Area fan club for Bennett.
Bennett and Crow founded Exploring the Arts, a charitable organization
dedicated to creating, promoting, and supporting arts education. At
the same time they founded (and named after Bennett's friend) the
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, a public high school
dedicated to teaching the performing arts, which opened in 2001 and
would have a very high graduation rate. On June 21, 2007, Bennett
married Crow in a private civil ceremony in New York that was
witnessed by former Governor Mario Cuomo.
Danny Bennett continues to be Tony's manager while Dae Bennett is a
recording engineer who has worked on a number of Tony's projects and
who opened Bennett Studios in
Englewood, New Jersey
Englewood, New Jersey in 2001, now
shuttered due to the downturn of major label budgets combined with
skyrocketing overhead. Tony's younger daughter Antonia is an aspiring
2006–present: Bennett going strong through his 80s and 91st
In August 2006, Bennett turned eighty years old. The birthday itself
was an occasion for publicity, which then extended through the rest of
the following year. Duets: An American Classic reached the highest
place ever on the albums chart for an album by Bennett and
garnered two Grammy Awards; concerts were given, including a
high-profile one for New York radio station WLTW-FM; a performance was
Christina Aguilera and a comedy sketch was made with
affectionate Bennett impressionist
Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night
Live; a Thanksgiving-time, Rob Marshall-directed television special
Tony Bennett: An American Classic on NBC, which would win multiple
Emmy Awards; receipt of the Billboard Century Award; and
American Idol season 6 as well as performing during
its finale. He received the
United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees' Humanitarian Award. Bennett was awarded the National
Endowment for the Arts
Jazz Masters Award in 2006, the highest
honor that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians.
The year 2008 saw Bennett making two appearances on "New York State of
Billy Joel at the final concerts given at Shea Stadium, and
in October releasing the album
A Swingin' Christmas
A Swingin' Christmas with The Count
Basie Big Band, for which he made a number of promotional appearances
at holiday time. In 2009, Bennett performed at the conclusion of the
Macworld Conference & Expo for Apple Inc., singing "The Best
Is Yet to Come" and "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" to a standing
ovation, and later making his
Jazz Fest debut in New
Orleans. In February 2010, Bennett was one of over 70 artists
singing on "
We Are the World
We Are the World 25 for Haiti", a charity single in aid of
the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In October he performed "I Left My
Heart in San Francisco" at AT&T Park before the third inning of
Game 1 of the 2010
World Series and sang "God Bless America" during
the seventh-inning stretch. Days later he sang "America the Beautiful"
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C.
Bennett in concert in Santa Ynez, California, 2005
In September 2011, Bennett appeared on
The Howard Stern Show
The Howard Stern Show and named
American military actions in the Middle East as the root cause of the
September 11 attacks. Bennett also claimed that former President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush personally told him at the Kennedy Center in December
2005 that he felt he had made a mistake invading Iraq, to which a Bush
spokesperson replied, "This account is flatly wrong." Following
bad press resulting from his remarks, Bennett clarified his position,
writing: "There is simply no excuse for terrorism and the murder of
the nearly 3,000 innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks on our country.
My life experiences, ranging from the
Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge to marching
with Martin Luther King, made me a life-long humanist and pacifist,
and reinforced my belief that violence begets violence and that war is
the lowest form of human behavior."
In September 2011, Bennett released
Duets II, a follow-up to his first
collaboration album, in conjunction with his 85th birthday. He sings
duets with seventeen prominent singers of varying techniques,
including Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Queen Latifah, and Lady
Gaga. Bennett appeared on the season 2 premiere of the television
procedural Blue Bloods performing "It Had To Be You" with Carrie
Underwood. His duet with
Amy Winehouse on "Body and
Soul"—reportedly the last recording she made before her
death—charted on the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100,
making Bennett the oldest living artist to appear there, as well as
the artist with the greatest span of appearances. The single did
well in Europe, where it reached the top 15 in several countries. The
album then debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making Bennett
the oldest living artist to reach that top spot, as well as marking
the first time he had reached it himself. A model of Koss
Tony Bennett Signature Edition (TBSE1), was created
for this milestone (Bennett having been one of the early adopters
of the Koss product back in the 1960s). In November 2011, Columbia
Tony Bennett – The Complete Collection, a 73-CD plus 3-DVD
set, which although not absolutely "complete", finally brought forth
many albums that had not had a previous CD release, as well as some
unreleased material and rarities. In December 2011, Bennett
appeared at the
Royal Variety Performance
Royal Variety Performance in Salford in the presence
of HRH Princess Anne.
Tony Bennett at Neal S. Blaisdell Center,
Honolulu on September 23,
In the wake of the premature deaths of Winehouse and Whitney Houston,
Bennett called for the legalization of drugs in February 2012. In
October 2012, Bennett released Viva Duets, an album of Latin American
music duets, featuring Vicente Fernández, Juan Luis Guerra, and
Vicentico among others. The recording and filming for the
project, in Fort Lauderdale, was co-sponsored by the city. On
October 31, 2012, Bennett performed "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"
in front of more than 100,000 fans at a City Hall ceremony
2012 World Series
2012 World Series victory by the San Francisco
Giants. He published another memoir, Life is a Gift: The Zen of
Bennett, and a documentary film produced by his son Danny was
released, also titled The Zen of Bennett.
In September 2014, Bennett performed for the first time in Israel,
with his jazz quartet at the
Charles Bronfman Auditorium
Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv,
receiving a standing ovation. He also made a surprise cameo appearance
on stage with
Lady Gaga at Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv, the previous
evening. The performance took place days before the release that
month of the two stars' much-delayed collaborative effort and
resultant Grammy-winning album, Cheek to Cheek, which debuted at
number one on the Billboard charts, extending the 88-year-old
Bennett's record for the oldest artist to do so. At the end of
2014, Bennett and
Lady Gaga kicked off their co-headlining Cheek to
Cheek Tour. The pair also appeared in a Barnes & Noble
On September 25, 2015, he released an album composed by Jerome Kern,
Bill Charlap on piano, called The Silver Lining: The Songs
of Jerome Kern. On November 1, 2015, Bennett, joined by the choir
Frank Sinatra School, sang "America the Beautiful" before
Game 5 of the baseball
World Series between the
Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals and
New York Mets
New York Mets at Citi Field.
On August 19, 2016, shortly after his 90th birthday, Bennett was
honored by the unveiling of an 8-foot tall statue in his likeness in
front of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. With Senator Dianne
Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and several current and
former San Francisco mayors in attendance, Bennett was serenaded by a
young-adult choir singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Bennett
had first sung his signature song at the hotel in 1961. That same
year, he performed at the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade on November
24 and the Rockefeller Center tree lighting on November 30. On
December 20, 2016,
NBC televised a special concert in honor of his
Bennett has also had success as a painter, done under his real name of
Anthony Benedetto or just Benedetto. He followed up his childhood
interest with professional training, work, and museum visits
throughout his life. He sketches or paints every day, often of views
out of hotel windows when he is on tour.
He has exhibited his work in numerous galleries around the world.
He was chosen as the official artist for the 2001 Kentucky Derby, and
was commissioned by the
United Nations to do two paintings, including
one for its fiftieth anniversary. His painting "Homage to Hockney"
(for his friend David Hockney, painted after Hockney drew him) is on
permanent display at the
Butler Institute of American Art
Butler Institute of American Art in
Youngstown, Ohio. His "Boy on Sailboat, Sydney Bay" is in the
permanent collection at the
National Arts Club
National Arts Club in
Gramercy Park in New
York, as is his "Central Park" at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
in Washington, D.C. His paintings and drawings have been featured
ARTnews and other magazines, and sell for as much as $80,000
apiece. Many of his works were published in the art book Tony
Bennett: What My Heart Has Seen in 1996. In 2007, another book
involving his paintings,
Tony Bennett in the Studio: A Life of Art
& Music, became a best-seller among art books.
Regarding his choices in music, Bennett reiterated his artistic stance
in a 2010 interview:
I'm not staying contemporary for the big record companies, I don't
follow the latest fashions. I never sing a song that's badly written.
In the 1920s and '30s, there was a renaissance in music that was the
equivalent of the artistic Renaissance. Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and
others just created the best songs that had ever been written. These
are classics, and finally they're not being treated as light
entertainment. This is classical music.
Awards and recognition
Tony Bennett concert show as seen by the audience, with no stage
set, visual effects or advanced lighting schemes. Kimmel Center,
Philadelphia, September 2005.
Bennett has won 20 Grammy Awards including a Grammy Lifetime
Achievement Award, as follows (years shown are the year in
which the ceremony was held and the award was given, not the year in
which the recording was released):
Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male, 1963, "I Left My Heart in San
Record of the Year, 1963, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1993, Perfectly Frank
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1994, Steppin' Out
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1995,
MTV Unplugged: Tony
Album of the Year, 1995,
MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1997, Here's to the Ladies
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1998,
Tony Bennett on Holiday
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 2000, Bennett Sings Ellington:
Hot & Cool
Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2003, Playin' with My Friends:
Bennett Sings the Blues
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2004, A Wonderful World (with k.d.
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2006, The Art of Romance
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2007, Duets: An American Classic
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, 2007, "For Once in My Life" (with
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, 2012, "Body and Soul" (with Amy
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2012,
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2015, Cheek to Cheek (with Lady
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2016, The Silver Lining: The Songs
Jerome Kern (with Bill Charlap)
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2018,
Tony Bennett Celebrates 90
Bennett's work for the Civil Rights Movement, including his
participation in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, later earned
him induction into the
International Civil Rights Walk of Fame
International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in
Bennett has won two Emmy Awards, as follows (years shown are the
year in which the ceremony was held and the award was given, not the
year in which the program aired):
Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music
Program, 1996, Live by Request
Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music
Program, 2007, Tony Bennett: An American Classic
Bennett has gained other notable recognition:
New York City's Bronze Medallion, 1969
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Induction into the Big Band and
Jazz Hall of Fame, 1997
Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, 2000
Lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Composers,
Authors and Publishers, 2002
Kennedy Center Honoree, 2005
Induction into the Long Island
Music Hall of Fame
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Humanitarian Award, 2006
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts
Jazz Masters Award, 2006
Induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, 2007
Induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, 2011
Honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of
Music (1974), The
Art Institute of Boston (1994), Roosevelt University's Chicago
Musical College (1995),
George Washington University
George Washington University (2001),
Cleveland Institute of
Music (2010), the Juilliard School
Fordham University (2012).
A statue of Bennett was unveiled outside the Fairmont Hotel on 19
August 2016, in honor of his 90th birthday, and his first performance
of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" there in 1961.
Bennett and wife Susan Crow at the opening of the Broad Contemporary
Art Museum in
Los Angeles in 2008
Tony Bennett discography
Bennett has released over 70 albums during his career, almost all
for Columbia Records. The biggest selling of these in the U.S. have
been I Left My Heart in San Francisco,
MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett,
and Duets: An American Classic, all of which went platinum for
shipping one million copies. Eight other albums of his have gone
gold in the U.S., including several compilations. Bennett has
also charted over 30 singles during his career, with his biggest
hits all occurring during the early 1950s and none charting between
1968 and 2010.
Bennett, Tony (1996). Tony Bennett: What My Heart Has Seen. Rizzoli.
Bennett, Tony; Friedwald, Will (1998). The Good Life: The
Autobiography Of Tony Bennett. Pocket Books.
Bennett, Tony; Sullivan, Robert (2007).
Tony Bennett in the Studio: A
Life of Art & Music. Sterling Publishing.
Bennett, Tony (2012). Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett.
HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-220706-7.
Bennett, Tony; Simon, Scott (2016). Just Getting Started.
HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-247677-7.
List of best-selling music artists
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Tony Bennett To Be Presented With The ASCAP Pied Piper Award At
The 19th Annual ASCAP Pop
Music Awards". Market Wire. April 2002.
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Michael Jackson Sings For Bill
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Longtime Love". People. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
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Come"". Macworld. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
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Macworld no Jobs fest". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 7,
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Jazz Fest - Second Weekend".
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recording". CNN. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
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Tony Bennett 'Flat Wrong'
About Iraq War Claim, Bush Spokesman Says". The Wrap. Reuters.
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Tony Bennett Goes on Apology
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tony Bennett.
Tony Bennett website
Exploring the Arts website
Tony Bennett on IMDb
Lady Gaga TV ad for Barnes & Noble
Tony Bennett discography
Tony Bennett discography at Discogs
Because of You
Alone at Last with Tony Bennett
The Beat of My Heart
Long Ago and Far Away
Strike Up the Band
Hometown, My Town
To My Wonderful One
Tony Sings for Two
Sings a String of Harold Arlen
My Heart Sings
I Left My Heart in San Francisco
I Wanna Be Around...
This Is All I Ask
The Many Moods of Tony
When Lights Are Low
Who Can I Turn To
If I Ruled the World: Songs for the Jet Set
The Movie Song Album
Tony Makes It Happen
For Once in My Life
Tony Bennett Christmas Album
I've Gotta Be Me
Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!
Tony Bennett's "Something"
Summer of '42
The Good Things in Life
The Tony Bennett/
Bill Evans Album
Life Is Beautiful
The Art of Excellence
Astoria: Portrait of the Artist
Here's to the Ladies
Tony Bennett on Holiday
Tony Bennett: The Playground
Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool
Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues
A Wonderful World
The Art of Romance
Duets: An American Classic
A Swingin' Christmas
A Swingin' Christmas (
Count Basie Big Band)
Cheek to Cheek
The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern
Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall
Mr. Broadway: Tony's Greatest Broadway Hits
A Time for Love
The Essential Tony Bennett
"Because of You"
"Rags to Riches"
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco"
"Body and Soul"
"Just in Time"
"Living Together, Growing Together"
"The Lady Is a Tramp"
"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
"I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby"
The Zen of Bennett
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live!
Cheek to Cheek Tour
Tony Bennett Celebrates 90
Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come
Awards for Tony Bennett
Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a
Perry Como /
Dinah Shore (1959)
Harry Belafonte (1960)
Fred Astaire (1961)
Carol Burnett (1962)
Carol Burnett (1963)
Danny Kaye (1964)
Art Carney (1967)
Art Carney /
Pat Paulsen (1968)
Arte Johnson /
Harvey Korman (1969)
Harvey Korman (1971)
Harvey Korman (1972)
Tim Conway (1973)
Harvey Korman /
Brenda Vaccaro (1974)
Jack Albertson /
Cloris Leachman (1975)
Chevy Chase /
Vicki Lawrence (1976)
Tim Conway /
Rita Moreno (1977)
Tim Conway /
Gilda Radner (1978)
Sarah Vaughan (1981)
Nell Carter /
André De Shields
André De Shields (1982)
Leontyne Price (1983)
Cloris Leachman (1984)
George Hearn (1985)
Whitney Houston (1986)
Robin Williams (1987)
Robin Williams (1988)
Linda Ronstadt (1989)
Tracey Ullman (1990)
Billy Crystal (1991)
Bette Midler (1992)
Dana Carvey (1993)
Tracey Ullman (1994)
Barbra Streisand (1995)
Tony Bennett (1996)
Bette Midler (1997)
Billy Crystal (1998)
John Leguizamo (1999)
Eddie Izzard (2000)
Barbra Streisand (2001)
Wayne Brady (2003)
Elaine Stritch (2004)
Hugh Jackman (2005)
Barry Manilow (2006)
Tony Bennett (2007)
Don Rickles (2008)
Gershwin Prize recipients
Paul Simon (2007)
Stevie Wonder (2009)
Paul McCartney (2010)
Burt Bacharach and
Hal David (2012)
Carole King (2013)
Billy Joel (2014)
Willie Nelson (2015)
Smokey Robinson (2016)
Tony Bennett (2017)
Grammy Award for Record of the Year
"Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)" by
Domenico Modugno (1959)
"Mack the Knife" by
Bobby Darin (1960)
"Theme from A Summer Place" by
Percy Faith (1961)
"Moon River" by
Henry Mancini (1962)
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by
Tony Bennett (1963)
"Days of Wine and Roses" by
Henry Mancini (1964)
"The Girl from Ipanema" by
Astrud Gilberto &
Stan Getz (1965)
"A Taste of Honey" by
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1966)
"Strangers in the Night" by
Frank Sinatra (1967)
"Up, Up and Away" by
The 5th Dimension
The 5th Dimension (Billy Davis, Jr., Florence
LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamont McLemore, Ron Townson) (1968)
"Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel (Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon)
"Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by
The 5th Dimension
The 5th Dimension (Billy Davis, Jr.,
Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamont McLemore, Ron Townson) (1970)
"Bridge over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel (Art Garfunkel,
Paul Simon) (1971)
"It's Too Late" by
Carole King (1972)
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by
Roberta Flack (1973)
"Killing Me Softly with His Song" by
Roberta Flack (1974)
"I Honestly Love You" by
Olivia Newton-John (1975)
"Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille (Daryl Dragon,
Toni Tennille) (1976)
"This Masquerade" by
George Benson (1977)
"Hotel California" by Eagles (Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley,
Randy Meisner, Joe Walsh) (1978)
"Just the Way You Are" by
Billy Joel (1979)
"What a Fool Believes" by
The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers (Jeffrey Baxter, John
Hartman, Keith Knudsen, Michael McDonald, Tiran Porter, Patrick
Christopher Cross (1981)
"Bette Davis Eyes" by
Kim Carnes (1982)
"Rosanna" by Toto (Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather, David Paich, Jeff
Porcaro, David Hungate, Steve Porcaro) (1983)
"Beat It" by
Michael Jackson (1984)
"What's Love Got to Do with It" by
Tina Turner (1985)
"We Are the World" by
USA for Africa
USA for Africa (1986)
"Higher Love" by
Steve Winwood (1987)
Paul Simon (1988)
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by
Bobby McFerrin (1989)
"Wind Beneath My Wings" by
Bette Midler (1990)
"Another Day in Paradise" by
Phil Collins (1991)
Natalie Cole with
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole (1992)
"Tears in Heaven" by
Eric Clapton (1993)
"I Will Always Love You" by
Whitney Houston (1994)
"All I Wanna Do" by
Sheryl Crow (1995)
"Kiss from a Rose" by Seal (1996)
"Change the World" by
Eric Clapton (1997)
"Sunny Came Home" by
Shawn Colvin (1998)
"My Heart Will Go On" by
Celine Dion (1999)
"Smooth" by Santana (Rodney Holmes, Tony Lindsay, Karl Perazzo, Raul
Rekow, Benny Rietveld, Carlos Santana, Chester Thompson) featuring Rob
"Beautiful Day" by U2 (Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr.)
"Walk On" by U2 (Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr.)
"Don't Know Why" by
Norah Jones (2003)
Coldplay (Guy Berryman, Jon Buckland, Will Champion, Phil
Harvey, Chris Martin) (2004)
"Here We Go Again" by
Ray Charles and
Norah Jones (2005)
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by
Green Day (Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike
Dirnt, Frank Edwin Wright III) (2006)
"Not Ready to Make Nice" by
Dixie Chicks (Martie Maguire, Natalie
Maines, Emily Robison) (2007)
Amy Winehouse (2008)
"Please Read the Letter" by
Alison Krauss and
Robert Plant (2009)
"Use Somebody" by
Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon (Caleb Followill, Jared Followill,
Matthew Followill, Nathan Followill) (2010)
"Need You Now" by
Lady Antebellum (Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, Dave
"Rolling in the Deep" by
"Somebody That I Used to Know" by
"Get Lucky" by
Daft Punk featuring
Pharrell Williams & Nile
"Stay with Me" (Darkchild version) by Sam Smith (2015)
"Uptown Funk" by
Mark Ronson featuring
Bruno Mars (2016)
"24K Magic" by
Bruno Mars (2018)
Grammy Award for Album of the Year
Music from Peter Gunn –
Henry Mancini (1959)
Come Dance with Me! –
Frank Sinatra (1960)
The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart –
Bob Newhart (1961)
Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy at Carnegie Hall –
Judy Garland (1962)
The First Family –
Vaughn Meader (1963)
Barbra Streisand Album –
Barbra Streisand (1964)
Getz/Gilberto – Stan Getz,
João Gilberto (1965)
September of My Years –
Frank Sinatra (1966)
A Man and His
Frank Sinatra (1967)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band –
The Beatles (1968)
By the Time I Get to Phoenix –
Glen Campbell (1969)
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears (1970)
Bridge over Troubled Water
Bridge over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (1971)
Carole King (1972)
The Concert for Bangladesh – Various (1973)
Stevie Wonder (1974)
Fulfillingness' First Finale
Fulfillingness' First Finale –
Stevie Wonder (1975)
Still Crazy After All These Years
Still Crazy After All These Years –
Paul Simon (1976)
Songs in the Key of Life
Songs in the Key of Life –
Stevie Wonder (1977)
Fleetwood Mac (1978)
Saturday Night Fever – Bee Gees/Various (1979)
52nd Street –
Billy Joel (1980)
Christopher Cross –
Christopher Cross (1981)
Double Fantasy –
John Lennon and
Yoko Ono (1982)
Toto IV – Toto (1983)
Michael Jackson (1984)
Can't Slow Down –
Lionel Richie (1985)
No Jacket Required
No Jacket Required –
Phil Collins (1986)
Paul Simon (1987)
The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree – U2 (1988)
George Michael (1989)
Nick of Time –
Bonnie Raitt (1990)
Back on the Block
Back on the Block –
Quincy Jones and various artists (1991)
Unforgettable... with Love –
Natalie Cole (1992)
Eric Clapton (1993)
The Bodyguard –
Whitney Houston (1994)
MTV Unplugged –
Tony Bennett (1995)
Jagged Little Pill
Jagged Little Pill –
Alanis Morissette (1996)
Falling into You
Falling into You –
Celine Dion (1997)
Time Out of Mind –
Bob Dylan (1998)
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill –
Lauryn Hill (1999)
Supernatural – Santana (2000)
Two Against Nature
Two Against Nature –
Steely Dan (2001)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack (2002)
Come Away with Me
Come Away with Me –
Norah Jones (2003)
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below –
Genius Loves Company
Genius Loves Company –
Ray Charles and various artists (2005)
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb – U2 (2006)
Taking the Long Way
Taking the Long Way –
Dixie Chicks (2007)
River: The Joni Letters –
Herbie Hancock (2008)
Raising Sand –
Robert Plant &
Alison Krauss (2009)
Taylor Swift (2010)
The Suburbs –
Arcade Fire (2011)
Babel – Mumford & Sons (2013)
Random Access Memories
Random Access Memories –
Daft Punk (2014)
Morning Phase –
Taylor Swift (2016)
24K Magic –
Bruno Mars (2018)
Kennedy Center Honorees (2000s)
James Earl Jones
Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Pete Townshend & Roger Daltrey
Robert De Niro
MusiCares Person of the Year
David Crosby (1991)
Bonnie Raitt (1992)
Natalie Cole (1993)
Gloria Estefan (1994)
Tony Bennett (1995)
Quincy Jones (1996)
Phil Collins (1997)
Luciano Pavarotti (1998)
Stevie Wonder (1999)
Elton John (2000)
Paul Simon (2001)
Billy Joel (2002)
Brian Wilson (2005)
James Taylor (2006)
Don Henley (2007)
Aretha Franklin (2008)
Neil Diamond (2009)
Neil Young (2010)
Barbra Streisand (2011)
Paul McCartney (2012)
Bruce Springsteen (2013)
Carole King (2014)
Bob Dylan (2015)
Lionel Richie (2016)
Tom Petty (2017)
Fleetwood Mac (2018)
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