Few pop singers can claim a popularity as enduring and universal as Tony Bennett’s. The beloved crooner has won 15 Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His singing is famous for its simplicity and emotional directness, as evidenced in his renditions of such hits as “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “Rags to Riches” and “What a Good Life.”
Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in Queens, N.Y., to a working-class family. His father, an Italian immigrant grocer, died when Tony was 10, and the boy was raised by his mother. As a young man, he served overseas in the Army and then studied voice at the American Theatre Wing School.
The singer began his career performing in various New York clubs before being discovered in 1949 by Bob Hope, who suggested he change his name to Tony Bennett. During the ’50s, Bennett signed on with Columbia Records, where he recorded such songs as “Because of You,” “Rags to Riches” and “Cold, Cold Heart.”
In 1962, Bennett recorded his signature song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” and won the first of many Grammys. He also made his solo debut at Carnegie Hall, which spawned its own album. The ’70s were less successful for Bennett because of the rise of the counterculture. He left Columbia and briefly signed on to MGM Records before leaving to start his own label. During this period, he also experimented with jazz recordings.
Throughout his career, Bennett has reached out to new generations of fans by crossing over into different spheres of pop culture. He appeared on television shows, such as “The Simpsons” and the MTV Music Video Awards (alongside The Red Hot Chili Peppers). His career experienced a resurgence in the ’80s and ’90s thanks to a series of projects with singers including k.d. lang, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole and Billy Joel.
Bennett’s recordings have been used in numerous films such as “Goodfellas,” “Analyze This” and “Get Shorty.”
Now in his 80s, Bennett continues to tour the world for concerts and other engagements. He has been married three times and has four children.