THE PICTURE OF PERSEVERANCE
Tony Bennett’s legendary career has forced him to keep up with an ever changing industry. With the world’s taste in music constantly changing, he has had to learn to reinvent himself – but never sacrificed his style. There will be times in your life when you will need to evolve, but that doesn’t mean you have to betray who you really are. Staying true to yourself is one of the biggest lessons of reinvention.
Bennett was born in 1926, into a poor family in Astoria, Queens, New York. The Great Depression and the death of his father (when Tony was only ten) made their circumstances more difficult. He recalls that at age sixteen he had to “hit the pavement and look for work, doing amateur shows and working as a singing waiter.” Like other iconic people, they used all of their experiences as building blocks to prolific careers.
“The first time I met Frank Sinatra, he said something to me that has stayed with me my entire life and has helped sustain my career.”
Tony Bennett has maintained an artistic integrity through his career that he learned long ago from the singer he most idolized: Frank Sinatra. Bennett recalled, “The first time I met Frank Sinatra, he said something to me that has stayed with me my entire life and has helped sustain my career. I was just getting established as a singer in the early 1950s, and Sinatra was doing an engagement at the Paramount Theatre in New York. I had been just hired as the summer replacement for Perry Como on his Kraft Music Hall television show. I was still new at show business, and I was nervous as hell. But I thought I’d take a chance and seek Sinatra’s advice since he was the singer I idolized. Without incident, I just went backstage and showed up at his dressing room. The Frank Sinatra I met was quite different from the one I had expected – he could not have been nicer to me.”
“He gave me the best advice I had ever been given: to stay away from cheap songs. ‘Only sing quality songs,’ he said. “I’ve followed that advice for over fifty years.” What celebrities and those in the public eye accomplished yesterday isn’t always relevant to today’s audience, particularly in The Arts. In order to be put into the category of “legend” and have a long sustained career, one must stay strong and continue to reinvent themselves.
In the early 1980s, Tony was able to revitalize his music career, which had floundered under rock and roll’s dominance in the music industry. He was at a loss as to how to sustain his popularity while the public’s taste in music shifted away from his classic, standards-based style.
Tony credits his son Danny, who became his manager, with making many of the key decisions that resulted in a complete career makeover. Danny put his father on television – on the animated series The Simpsons, on talk shows with David Letterman, and on MTV Unplugged.
To mark his eightieth birthday in 2006, Tony released Tony Bennett Duets: An American Classic, recorded with a collection of stars including Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Bono, and Sting. Tony released Duets II in the fall of 2011, and his work with Lady Gaga on “The Lady Is a Tramp” proved to be one of its highlights. The album also featured another distinctive track – the late Amy Winehouse’s final recording. She and Tony sang together on “Body and Soul.” Their collaboration won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 2012.
Bennett finds his peace through painting. Bennett paints under his given name, Anthony Benedetto. Even with his busy schedule, he finds time to paint every day. It is truly his passion. He has been painting since he was five years old and has become an accomplished artist with three of his originals being part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institute. Among the many owners of his original art around the world are President Bill Clinton, Mickey Rooney, Katie Couric and Carol Connors.
Bennett explains his love for painting in a 2002 article written by Simon Hattenstone for Britain’s The Guardian: “It makes you fall in love with life. You paint with nature out in the field and you realize how magnificent being alive is. Most people just walk past it. I used to walk past it. Each day now, because of my age, I just look at it and cherish it. If people could only grasp how wonderful it is to be part of this.”
TONY’S EMPOWERING THOUGHT
“Stay true to yourself, and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Tony wanted to share his passion for The Arts with young people. Read the AMM article about Exploring the Arts (ETA).
You can find a more in-depth profile of Tony Bennett in Jerry Gladstone’s international best selling book, The Common Thread of Overcoming Adversity and Living Your Dreams. Jerry is a success and life coach as well as a corporate speaker. TheCommonThreadGroup.com.
AMM is honored to profile legendary singer, Tony Bennett, whose groundbreaking leadership in the full spectrum of the arts: education, philanthropy, and masterful painting, continue to elevate the Arts in America.