Tony Bennett, the King of the American Songbook, died Friday in New York, according to his longtime publicist. He passed away at the age of 96 from natural causes in his New York City hometown, Astoria
The famous 20th-century-crooner-turned-jazz-artist was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. Bennet reached the Billboard Top 10 at age 95 in 2021, thanks to his second duet album with Lady Gaga, Love For Sale. He celebrated his retirement later that year, performing with the “Paparazzi” singer at Radio City Music Hall.
According to Bennet’s Twitter account, he was heard singing “Because of You,” his first No.1 hit, days before his death. Along with his masterful catalog, Bennett has released more than 70 albums, earning 19 Grammys and a fanbase that transcends generations.
Bennett was a timeless American Songbook devotee thanks to his power to amplify the emotions of long-lost standards. No matter the number of PBS specials, his vocal technique always brought a newness to records. He even launched new music standards like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” into international acclaim (with the help of now-deceased friend and longtime pianist Ralph Sharon).
“He [Bennett] always says, ‘I’m not a jazz singer,’ but he has a great feel for a beat. I think that’s why musicians love to play with Tony, and also like to listen to him,”Ralph Sharon once told NPR
The standard “I Fall In Love Too Easily” introduced Frank Sinatra in 1944’s film Anchors Away. There began a decades-long friendship that lives on through The Frank Sinatra School of Arts High School, located in Queens, New York.
Likewise, close friend and collaborator Lady Gaga truly redefined Bennett’s final decade with friendship and music. While their two duet albums brought rich American standards to younger generations, Bennet ‘found a friend’ in their ten-year partnership.
Musicians and friends took to social media to remember Bennett, including Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, David Letterman, Ozzy Osbourne, Elton John, Billie Joel, Barack Obama and more.