Sad news broke on July 21, 2023, to announce the iconic crooner and world-famous singer Tony Bennett dead at the age of 96. Diagnosed in 2016 with Alzheimer's disease, the legendary artist left this world just two weeks before his 97th birthday. But the impact he had on music won’t soon be forgotten.
Ask just about anyone and they’ll likely recognize at least a couple of Tony Bennett songs. Because Of You, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Steppin’ Out With My Baby, When You’re Smiling — whether an original or a cover, Tony’s jazzy performances of American classics over a decades-long career earned him a music legend status.
Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, which means “blessed one” in Italian, there’s no doubt God certainly blessed the Queens, New York native with an incredible voice. His singing career began in 1951 when he released his debut single "Because of You." And over the next 80-plus years, his vocal stylings earned him loads of fans, along with plenty of awards.
Tony Bennett Could Have Ended Up Dead Due To Poor Choices
Though Tony’s career started out hot, it got derailed for a bit. This was in part due to the rise of rock ‘n roll, but also because of Tony’s own battle with addiction. By the end of the ’70s, Tony’s self-founded record label folded, the IRS was threatening to take his home, and the singer was addicted to drugs.
As his son took over his business dealings, some powerful words from a friend helped Tony Bennett get his personal life under control. Of his out-of-control lifestyle, Tony’s friend told him he’d “sinned against his talent.” God had given Tony this amazing voice as a gift and he was wasting it!
“That one sentence just changed my life,” he recalled. “It meant that I had to drop everything I was doing. I stopped all drugs completely.”
Tony Bennett Secretly Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s
It wasn’t the last time singing would save his life. In 2016, doctors diagnosed Tony Bennett with Alzheimer's disease. It’s a terrible disease and the progressive memory loss it causes can often rob patients of things like the recognition of loved ones, independence, mobility, and even speech.
However, God’s gift of music seemed to help keep Tony from suffering some of these more severe symptoms.
Despite his diagnosis, Tony Bennett continued singing and performing well into his 90s, with no one suspecting his condition. His wife and dedicated caretaker, Susan, joined him on the road.
Hints to his disease showed up in Tony’s one-on-one interactions behind the scenes, as detailed in an in-depth story by AARP. However, when it came time to perform, the old Tony Bennett reemerged and took centerstage.
"Singing is everything to him. Everything. It has saved his life many times,” Tony’s wife, Susan, said.
WATCH: Tony Bennett — Living With Alzheimer’s In 2021
Bringing Hope To Others
Tony’s ability to continue thriving despite his diagnosis is part of the reason the family eventually decided to go public with his condition. They wanted to encourage others who are facing the disease.
Gayatri Devi, M.D. is the neurologist who diagnosed and treated Tony. She has studied the disease for decades and found the singer’s journey inspiring.
Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer's. Thank you to Susan and my family for their support, and @AARP The Magazine for telling my story.
Read more here:https://t.co/R05A4jc5BF⁰
📸 Kelsey Bennett pic.twitter.com/ApxBCpGv0y
- Tony Bennett (@itstonybennett) February 1, 2021
That’s not to say there weren’t challenges and difficulties throughout, especially for Tony’s family. But Ton’y connection to music and performing kept him and his loved ones connected to joy throughout his Alzheimer’s battle.
Dr. Devi explained how during the progression of the disease, Tony had some "cognitive issues, but multiple other areas of his brain are still resilient and functioning well.”
She continued on, saying, “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”
Tony Bennett Dead At 96 After A Life Filled With Music
Even before news of his disease became public, Tony said, “I could have retired 16 years ago, but I just love what I'm doing.” He reportedly told his son, Danny, “Hey, as long as my voice doesn't wobble and people like me, I'm going to keep singing until I die.”
And that’s a promise that pretty much held true.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to much of Tony Bennett’s touring. However, on August 3 and 5, 2021, Tony took the stage again with Lady Gaga for the television special, One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. The show celebrated the iconic singer’s 95th birthday and marked his final public appearance before officially retiring due to his illness.
Then, on July 21, 2023, the news broke, confirming Tony Bennett dead at 96.
Though the specific cause was not identified, the singer passed away at his home in New York. He is survived by his wife, Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, his daughters Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett, and 9 grandchildren.
And as his loved ones move forward during this difficult time of grief, let’s pray that they are covered and comforted by God’s loving embrace.
WATCH: Remembering Tony Bennett
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Featured Image Credit: Facebook/The Telegraph