Legendary singer Tony Bennett dies at age 96

tony bennett and lady gaga

NEW YORK, (Reuters): Tony Bennett, the smooth American singer who had an enduring hit with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and remained perpetually cool enough to win over younger generations of fans well into the 21st century, died on Friday, his publicist said.

Bennett was 96. He died at his home in New York City of age-related causes, his publicist Sylvia Weiner said in a statement.

No less than Frank Sinatra called the former singing waiter “the best singer in the business” after he became a star in the 1950s. Bennett went on to win 20 Grammy awards, including a lifetime achievement award.

President Joe Biden on Friday said Bennett’s life was “legendary.” He added: “Tony Bennett didn’t just sing the classics – he himself was an American classic.”

The older Bennett grew, the more diverse his collaborators became. Bennett was in his late 80s when he recorded a 2014 album of duets with the outre Lady Gaga and went on a world tour with her in 2015. Partners on his popular “Duet” albums ranged from former Beatle Paul McCartney and soul queen Aretha Franklin to country star Willie Nelson and U2’s Bono.

Bennett marked his 90th birthday in 2016 with a party in New York that drew celebrities such as Bruce Willis and John Travolta. The Empire State Building put on a light show in his honor. He also published a memoir titled “Just Getting Started” in 2016.

In early 2021, Bennett revealed that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. But he kept recording after the diagnosis and later tweeted, “Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s.”

Due to his illness, Bennett retired from performing after his concerts at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Aug. 3 and 5, 2021.

Bennett’s career saw many with highs and lows.

He was in his 50s in the late 1970s when he found himself facing a decaying marriage, a cocaine habit, a $2 million tax debt and limited career prospects. He pulled out of it by turning over his management to his son Danny, who propelled his father to new heights of popularity by introducing him to younger generations.

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