Over the weekend we reached the end of a crooning era with icon and legend Tony Bennett officially retiring from his singing career. As initially reported by Deadline, and confirmed through Bennett’s own camp and management team, the singer has canceled remaining tour dates for this year and will be hanging up the suit and loafers for the retirement life. Considering that he is nearly a century old, it is an amazing testament to his talent and stamina that he was still touring at this point in his life.
According to the reporting, Tony Bennett had been diagnosed with onset dementia about five years ago though had continued to tour throughout that time. And according to his representation, his son Danny, the icon was actually still physically and musically able to continue with the tour but there was growing concern that he would face some sort of fall or mishap along the way. Wanting to avoid this, and finish on top, all parties decided that retirement was the best way to go.
Born in 1926, Tony Bennett first embarked on a professional singing career in the early 1950s with a crooning style popular at the time. He had a number of number one hits early in that decade including “Because of You” and then “Cold, Cold Heart” followed by “Rags to Riches” and then “Strangers in Paradise”. These songs put him on the map and he was often in the discussion with the other notables of this era including Frank Sinatra.
Tony Bennett had his best-known hit in the next decade when in 1962 he recorded “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”. Like many of his other hits, this was a song that was covered and re-recorded by the singer and eventually won a Grammy Award for Best Male Solo Vocal Performance, and the album, took home a Grammy as well. Though Rock and Roll pervaded in the 1960s Tony Bennett still had a sizable audience and though number one hits were fewer and far between, his iconic staying power lasted for decades.
He struggled with drug issues though and there were some lean years that included a drug overdose from cocaine in 1979. But the early 1980s saw him get back on the road, touring smaller venues and priming him for the comeback he saw in the early 1990s when a surprise assist by MTV saw Tony Bennett reenter the collective consciousness. He presented an award at the MTV Music Awards and then record MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett which featured duets with k.d. lang and Elvis Costello which landed him another Grammy.
Tony Bennett would continue to tour and perform for the next couple of decades, releasing compilation albums and appearing in commercials. He even has a duet album with Lady Gaga recorded and due out in the near future. It has been truly a staggering and iconic career for Tony Bennett who leaves the industry as one of the true greats. I think it is safe to say that even at 95 years old he is still going out on top.