"Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business, the best exponent v/a song. He excites me whenever I watch him -- he moves me. -- Frank Sinatra
"Tony Bennett is the best singer Ive ever heard. --Bing Crosby
Tony Bennett is the kind of artist that moves the hearts and souls of audiences. Ties the singers singer. On his latest album for Columbia Records, Tony Bennett offers up a toast to hi sources of inspiration: HERE S TO THE LADIES, an 18-song tribute to some of the greatest female musical artists of all time. Bennett has recorded, in his own inimitable style, songs popularized by Barbra Streisand (People), Peggy Lee ("Im in Love Again"), Judy Garland ("Somewhere Over The Rainbow"), Blossom Deane ("My Love Went To London"), Sarah Vaughn ("Poor Butterfly"), Doris Day ("Sentimental Journey"), Carmen McRae ("cloudy Morning"), Rosemary Clooney ("Tenderly"), Mabel Mercer ("Down In The Depths"), Margaret Whiting ("Moonlight in Vermont" and "My Ideal"), Helen OConnell ("Tangerine"), Billie Holiday ("God B]ess The Child"), Dinah Washington ("Daybreak), [Ha Fitzgerald ("You Showed Me The Way"), Lena Home ("Honeysuckle Rose"), Liza Minnelli ("Maybe This Time") and Ethel Merman ("I Got Rhythm").
Filled with the desire to cast each tune in the most appropriate musical setting, Tony Bennett recorded the songs on HERES TO THE LADIES with three distinctly different ensembles: an 18-piece big band; a 51-piece orchestra; and Tonys longtime musical collaborators, the famed Ralph Sharon Trio. HERES TO THE LADIES was recorded in New York and produced by David Kahne.
Accompanying the recording will be a CBS-TV special, "Tony Bennett: Heres To The Ladies," airing in early December. ft will feature songs from the album with special guest appearances by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patti LaBelle, Roseanne, Brandy, Liza Minnelli, and others. On Valentines Day 1996, a live simulcast Tony Bennett performance with radio stations across the country and the A&E Cable Network will air. In a unique interactive format, TV viewers and radio listeners will be able to make song requests directly to the singer.
Over the past five years, Tony Bennett has sold more than three million records worldwide; has had two records--Perfectly Frank and Unplugged--certified gold; and has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from countless organizations including Mother Hale, Juvenile Diabetes and MusiCares. Bennett entered his fifth decade in popular music by releasing an album version of his highly-acclaimed "MTV Unplugged session (first broadcast June 1, 1994). TONY BENNETT-MTV UNPLUGGED, twenty classic tunes from the "great American songbook." won the 1995 Grammy Award for "Album Of The Year as well as Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance," bringing Tonys lifetime Grammy total up to
The MTV generation first took Tony Bennett to heart during his appearance with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on last years Video Music Awards Ceremony. His stylish "Steppin Out" video was added to MTVs Buzz Bin and appeared frequently on play-lists of video music channels across the country. In December 1993, Bennett shared the stage with a number of Alternative Nation luminaries--including Billy Idol, They Might Be Giants, Juliana Hatfield, the Lemonheads, Cowboy Junkies, Belly, and Porno For Pyros--in a series of six Christmas concerts hosted by alternative rock radio stations across the country.
"Tony Bennett has not just bridged the generation gap," pointed out The New York Times, "he has demolished it. He has solidly connected with a younger crowd weaned on rock. And there have been no compromises."
Perhaps one of the reasons why hes had such a lasting success and impact is the fact that he communicates such a sense of excitement about his art, and such a sense of wonder about the gift that is his extraordinary voice. "The thrill of performing hasnt changed in years" he says, Ive learn something different every day. Ive never gotten bored yet and I dont think I ever will."
Since his return "home" to Columbia Records in 1986, Tony Bennett has been responsible for one of the most consistent, high-quality bodies of recorded work in American popular music: The Art of Excellence (May, 1986), chosen by Pulse! magazine as one of the 200 best albums of the decade and the number one vocal record; the double-LP anthology reissue Tony Bennett Jazz (April, 1987); Bennett/Berlin (October, 1988), a tribute to the composer whose 100th birthday was celebrated on May 11, 1988; and the Grammy-nominated Astoria: Portrait of the Artist (February, 1990), which took its title from the singers hometown in Queens, New York; and his last two Columbia records--Perfectly Frank (1992) and Steppin Out (1993)--which each won a Grammy in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal category.
The son of a grocer and Italian-born immigrant, Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in Astoria, Queens (New York City), in 1926. He grew up singing and drawing pictures, and now enjoys a flourishing second career as an artist painting under his own name. He spent three years in the Army, and many more seasons singing wherever he could, including clubs in Long Island City with visiting stars like Al Cohn and Tvree Glenn.
Things eventually began to happen for him. "My scuffling years began to end in 1949," he recalls, "when I auditioned for a revue that Pearl Bailey was in at the old Greenwich Village Inn. Bob Hope heard me in the show and asked me to come up and sing at the Paramount Theater with him. He didnt like my stage name [Joe Ban] and asked me what my real name was. I told him Anthony Benedetto. He thought a moment and said, Thats too long for the marquee. Well call you Tony Bennett.
"A year later," Tony continues, "Mitch Miller auditioned me at Columbia Records. 1 sang Boulevard of Broken Dreams and it became my first hit. That gave me the strength to go on the road and work clubs in places like Philadelphia, Boston. Cleveland, and Buffalo.
"So I started this crazy adventure that has lasted forty years," he sums up. "I had hits like Because of You, Just In Time. Cold, Cold Heart, Stranger In Paradise, and Rags to Riches. I became international in 1962 when I recorded I Left My Heart in San Francisco" for which he won two Grammy awards (Record Of The Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance-- Male).
The overwhelming praise and enthusiasm that greeted The Art of Excellence, the 1986 album that marked Tony Bennetts renewed association with Columbia Records, confirmed the endless appeal of American pop classics and his mastery as their consummate communicator. Bennett/Berlin, his 1987 tribute to the master American composer, the late Irving Berlin, is destined to become a classic testament to the songwriters brilliance.
Bennetts Astoria: Portrait of the Artist, which brought a nomination for a 1990 Grammy award, was named after the singers hometown of Astoria, Queens. His performance of "When Do the Bells Ring For Me" from the album received a standing ovation at the 1991 Grammy ceremonies and was a highlight of the evening.
In celebration of his unparalleled contributions to pop music, Columbia/Legacy assembled Forty Years: The Artistry of Tony Bennett. The four CD/cassette boxed-set, clocking in with 87 songs and more than four hours of music, was released July, 1991. Not only does the collection stand alone as a chronological history of the singers stellar recording career to date, it also serves as a powerful and fascinating document of his personal development as an artist. "Here is... the essence of why CD boxed sets are a blessing," wrote Time magazine. "No one can get to the quick of a lyric with the easy emotion of Bennett."
In 1991, Columbia awarded him a plaque commemorating the sale of 30 million records since he first signed with the label and, later that year, Tony Bennett Live - "Watch What Happens" was released as a home video by SMV (Sony Music Video Enterprises). Its 27 songs captured a concert performance at Londons Prince Edward Theatre, accompanied by the Ralph Sharon Trio and the London Chamber Orchestra.
In the course of the "crazy adventure" mentioned earlier, two things have always been particularly identifiable about him whenever the name Tony Bennett has come up. The first, of course, is his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." The second is the quotation at the opening of this writing, "when Sinatra, in Life magazine in the 6Os, said that out of everybody I was his favorite entertainer."
It wasnt the first assistance Sinatra ever gave Bennett. In fact, he recalls seeking out the older singers advice when he was just starting out in the 5Os. "He gave me some very, very good pointers. He told me to just stay with good music. He said, Dont do any tricks or novelty songs just to get a hit. Dont compromise. So I lived by those lessons. And many years later, just recently I said, Why do you think weve been around so long Im sailing 40 years now. And he said, Well, we stayed with quality."
The song selection and performances on HERES TO THE LADIES reflect Tonys Lifetime commitment to the music he loves. "When you take a song on the road, you do it oven and over again, you finally get so comfortable with it," he explains. "And thats when it starts getting good, when it just becomes almost subconscious. Your concentration becomes so strong that you dont even think about it, you just do it. Its like Zen."
"What accounts for the Bennett magic?," asked The New York Times in a review of the "MTV Unplugged" broadcast. "Artistry certainly. The repertory is indeed classic....But perhaps more important is his ability to convey a sense of joy, of utter satisfaction, in what he is doing."
On HERES TO THE LADIES, Tony Bennett sings to the muses that make the magic.