Left My Heart In San Francisco
Veteran artist Tony Bennett harvested 13 Grammy Awards throughout his fifty-year musical career. Initially bursting into the music scene with several covers songs, Bennett scored huge success with his signature song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” (1962), which also gave him two Grammy Awards. After being drowned out by the rise of the rock ‘n’ roll era, the singer revisited his triumphant moment with such albums as Perfectly Frank (1992) and Steppin’ Out (1993), as well as being seen on MTV Unplugged (1994) and Tony Bennett Live by Request: A Valentine’s Special (1996). He was also applauded for his musical work in Here’s To The Ladies (1995), Tony Bennett on Holiday (1997), Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool (1999), Playin’ with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues (2001), A Wonderful World (2002, collaborated with K. D. Lang) and The Art of Romance (2004).
In 1997, Bennett was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He also received a Pied Piper Lifetime Achievement Award from the 2002 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors. Aside from his solid musical career, Bennett is also an accomplished painter who has an art studio in New York City, and the founder of The Frank Sinatra High School of Performing Arts in Queens, New York.
Bennett was previously married to Patricia Beech (1952-1971) and Sandy Grant (1972-1980) before forming a longtime relationship with Susan Crow (educator). He is also the father of two sons and two daughters.
Childhood and Family:
Anthony Dominick Benedetto, who was later known as Tony Bennett, was born on August 3, 1926, in Astoria, New York. His father (grocer) died when he was ten and his mother, a seamstress, had to support the family of five.
Inheriting his father’s musical flair, at age 10 Tony sang at the opening of the Triborough Bridge. To support his artistic interests, he studied music and painting at the High School of Industrial Art in New York. However, he left school to help support his family and worked as a singing waiter in several Queens’ Italian restaurants. During WWII, he served in the Army, first as a part of the occupying force, but then as an entertainer, during which time he used the stage name Joe Bari. Returning to the US, Tony attended the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill.
Tony was first married to Patricia Beech in 1952. They had two kids, D’Andrea (Danny) and Daegal (Dae). In 1971, the couple split up and Tony married Sandy Grant a year later. His second marriage also ended up in divorce in 1980. Tony and Sandy share two daughters, Joanna and Antonia.
Spotted by performer Pearl Bailey, Tony Bennett was asked to perform in Greenwich Village in 1949. Bob Hope, who recognized Bennett’s talent, took him under his wing and suggested he change the stage name “Joe Bari” to “Tony Bennett.” The following year, Bennett made a demo of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and eventually was signed to Columbia Records.
Bennett launched his first single, the cover of “Because of You” (1952), and ruled the pop charts for 10 weeks. Later that year, he topped the charts again with the revival of Hank Williams’ single “Cold, Cold Heart.” The new singer again gained fame with his version of “Blue Velvet” (1951). A year later, his singles was put into a 10-minute album titled Because of You (1952).
Despite the arrival of the rock ‘n’ roll era, Bennett still scored success with his singles “Rags to Riches” (1953) and “Stranger in Paradise” (1953). Releasing the album Cloud 7 (1955), the artist demonstrated his affection for jazz. He then explored the music genre further in the album The Beat Of My Heart (1957), which was launched in the same year as his self-titled album. Amid his recording sessions, the artist also appeared on screen as the host of the summer replacement program “The Tony Bennett Show” (1956).
Bennett made a fruitful collaboration with the Count Basie Orchestra in the albums Basie Swings, Bennett Sings (1958) and In Person, Tony Bennett/Count Basie and his Orchestra (1959). Branching out to acting, he guest starred in an episode of “Make Room for Daddy” (1959), as cousin Stephen.
Subsequent to a series of well-received recordings, including To My Wonderful One (1960) and My Heart Sings (1961), Bennett soared even higher with the single “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” (1962), which was later included in the titular album. Breaking the charts, the single garnered two Grammys (one for Record of the Year, one for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) and received gold certification. It also became Bennett’s signature song and one of the tracks in the 2001 RIAA/NEA list of “The Most Historically Significant Songs of the 20th Century.” The victory was followed with his Top 5 album I Wanna Be Around (1963), which spawned two Top 20 hit singles: the title track and “The Good Life,” and his recurring screen role of Maximillian in the crime drama series “77 Sunset Strip” (1963).
Following his 1964 album When Lights Are Low, Bennett had his last top 40 single with “If I Ruled the World” (1965, also the title of the album) and took home another Grammy for Song of the Year for “The Shadow Of Your Smile (Love Theme From The Sandpiper)” (1965). Failing to impress his audience with the role of Hymie Kelly in the flopped drama The Oscar (1966), Bennett also had to survive the pressure of the rock ‘n’ roll trend.
Bennett’s struggle through such undervalued recordings as A Time For Love (1966), For Once In My Life (1967), Yesterday I Heard the Rain (1968), I’ve Gotta Be Me (1969) and Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today (1970), led to his withdrawal from Columbia Records. After briefly joining MGM Records with no results, the singer opened up his own label, Improv Records and collaborated with jazz pianist Bill Evans. Together, they successfully recorded the album The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (1975) and Together Again (1976). Nonetheless, Improv Records went out of business the next year.
Several years later, with the help of son Danny as his manager, Bennett was reunited with pianist Ralph Sharon and rejoined Columbia Records. He recorded The Art of Excellence (1986), which put him back on the charts. Gradually, Bennett returned with several albums like Bennett/Berlin (1987), Astoria: Portrait of the Artist (1989) and the compilation Forty Years: The Artistry of Tony Bennett (1991).
After voicing his own character in the animated series “The Simpsons” (1990), Bennett hit the big time with his Sinatra homage Perfectly Frank (1992) and the Fred Astaire tribute Steppin’ Out (1993), both of which went gold and won Tony two Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. Introducing his music to younger listeners, he performed in a 1994 episode of “MTV Unplugged” and won two Grammys (one for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance and one for Album of the Year) for its resulting album. Bennett was next seen in a guest performance in the sitcom “Evening Shade” (1994).
The performer next issued the Grammy-winning album Here’s To The Ladies (1995) before earning various critical accolades for the TV special program Tony Bennett Live by Request: A Valentine’s Special (1996, won an Emmy and a CableACE for Best Performance). Bennett next launched the albums Tony Bennett on Holiday (1997, won a Grammy), Tony Bennett: The Playground (1998) and Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool (1999, won a Grammy). Meanwhile, Bennett also made several appearances on screen and was seen in The Scout (1994), “Cybill” (1995), “Suddenly Susan” (1997), “Cosby” (1998) and Analyze This (1999).
Subsequent to his greatest hits compilation, The Ultimate Tony Bennett (2000), Bennett won two Grammys for Playin’ with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues (2001) and A Wonderful World (2002, collaborated with K. D. Lang). He then made a cameo appearance as himself in the comedy Bruce Almighty (2003) and guest starred in the reality show “The Casino” (2004). Still in 2004, he released the album The Art of Romance, which received a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album (2006).