‘I left my heart in San Francisco…’ – 50 years ago today

23 01 2012

Musical Notes for the Day:

‘We’re in an era where the demand is for immediate hits destined to become obsolescent. Six months later everyone forgets the artist, and the tune. It’s become like a con job. Producers, engineers, lawyers and accountants all make money, but the artists don’t.’  

‘I think one of the reasons I’m popular again is because I’m wearing a tie. You have to be different.’

‘I’m just so pleased that all these contemporary artists want to sing with me. They’re making me feel so good.’

Tony Bennett (1926 – )

Today marks the 50th anniversary of  Tony Bennett’s signature song, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’.

If you click the link you will see him performing it on ‘The Judy Garland Show’ in 1963. She joins him for a duet reprise – two legends for the price of one!   

Anthony Benedetto, the son of a grocer, an Italian born immigrant, was born in Queens, New York City, in 1926. As a teenager he sang while waiting on tables and during his overseas army duty, during World War II, he sang with military big bands.

He got his break after being spotted by legendary comic Bob Hope, performing under the stage name of ‘Joe Bari’, in Greenwich Village – 1949. Hope invited him to, ‘…come to the Paramount and sing with me,’  and  suggested Anthony Bendetto became ‘Tony Bennett’  –  a legend was born…

Once described by ‘Old Blue Eyes’ – Frank Sinatra – as, ‘the best in the business,’  Tony Bennett has fifteen Grammy Awards (including a prestigious lifetime achievement award) and two Emmy Awards to his name, having sold over 50 million records, worldwide, in a career spanning 63 years.

In the ’90s and 2000’s his career enjoyed a resurgence and musical artists past, and present, were suddenly falling over them-selves to perform and record with him.   

It all began with a widely acclaimed 1993 MTV Video Awards appearance with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and took off from there.    

In 2001 he celebrated his 80th birthday, ‘Playin’ With My Friends’, an album of jazz/blues duets with a range of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Sheryl Crow, k.d. lang, Ray Charles and BB King.    

In 2007 there followed a successful American classic ‘Duets’ album featuring Paul McCartney, Bono, Sting, George Michael, James Taylor and Elvis Costello.    

To coincide with his 85 birthday, last year, he was back in the recordings studio again for ‘Duets II’ – recorded on the Columbia label. Among its highlights are an upbeat ‘The Lady  is a Tramp’, with Lady Gaga, and a version of the 1930s classic ‘Body and Soul’  –  Amy Winehouse’s  last recording, which has the sadly prophetic lines, ‘… It looks like the ending / Unless I could have one more chance…’    

Tony picked up Grammy Awards for Collaborations such of these, led the New York Times to proclaim, ‘Tony Bennett has not just bridged the generation gap he has demolished it.’

I’ve got selected tracks from all three albums, on my iPod – ‘easy listening’ for sure, but top of the range stuff, timeless in its appeal.   

Tony is also a dedicated painter and has exhibited his work in galleries around the world. His ‘Homage to Hockney’ painting is on permanent display at the Butler Institute of American Art, a portrait of Duke Ellington hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and another of Ella Fitzgerald is on display at the National Museum of American History. The United Nations has also commissioned two paintings from him, including one to celebrate its 50th anniversary.  

He has always supported humanitarian causes and the Martin Luther Centre in Atlanta presented him with their ‘Salute to Greatness’ for playing a leading role in the fight against discrimination. The UN also recognised his work with their 2007 Humanitarian Award.

Tony has been the subject of a filmed biography produced by Clint Eastwood and a major 2006 television special, ‘Tony Bennett: An American Classic’, which won 8 Emmy Awards.

The tag ‘legendary’ is used far too often in the world of music – but Tony Bennett has well and truly earned it.

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One response

25 01 2012
Another Phil

Something to be said for the old ‘uns….Bennett,Dylan,Cohen still singing (?) away after all these years

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