Anthony Dominick Benedetto, better known as Tony Benett, is a famous American jazz singer of traditional pop standards, big band, and show tunes. He was born on August 3, 1926, in Queens, New York.
Raised during the dark days of the Great Depression, Tony’s life became even more complicated when his father died when he was just ten years old. Later he had to drop out of high school so that he could help with his family’s finances and worked as a singing waiter. During WWII, he served in the Army Infantry, and after the war, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to study singing at the American Theatre Wing.
While performing under the pseudonym Joe Bari, he got his first break when singer Pearl Bailey asked him to open for her show in Greenwich Village. He then caught the attention of none other than Bob Hope, one of the most honored and esteemed entertainers in history, who suggested that he start using the name Tony Benett and put him in his show.
In 1950, Benett signed with Columbia Records and started wowing audiences with such hits like “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Rags to Riches,” and “Because of You,” earning with his smooth voice the adoration of young and old listeners, alike. In 1962, he debuted the now legendary song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which led to Bennett’s first Grammy Award and became his signature song.
Along with his inspiring music, Tony Benett has also nurtured a lifelong love of painting. His paintings have been featured in such places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian.
Unfortunately, his life and career took a couple of turns for the worse. After moving to Los Angeles, Benett started using cocaine and marijuana. After having a near-death experience in the bathtub and divorcing his wife, Benett decided that it was time to turn over a new leaf.
With the help of his eldest son, Tony was able to put the pieces of his personal and professional life back together. He re-signed with his old record house, unleashing a series of great albums and collaborations with other eminent musicians. More notable duets were with Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse.
Throughout his career, Benett has always put his heart and soul into philanthropic concerns. His devotion to numerous charities is almost legendary. Tony has raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, who, in return, established a research fund in his name. Benett’s original paintings – which he signs under his real name – grace the cover of the American Cancer Society’s annual greeting card every year. The proceedings from the sale of those holiday cards is earmarked for cancer research. He is also very much active in environmental and social concerns.
Tony Benett is still a creative tour de force and a great inspiration to us all. It is remarkable to think that even in his ’90s, he’s not showing the signs of slowing down. A real agent of positive change!