Born on August 3, 1926, on Long Island, New York, Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born to the son of a grocer and seamstress. Bennett grew up with his two other siblings, and in poverty as the Great Depression hit them hard. His father tragically passed away when he was just 10 years old, but left a legacy on the importance of art, literature, and compassion for one another.
How Old Tony Bennett Is Now: The beginnings
At this age, Tony was already singing around town, citing Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong as his influences. He began earning money for it at age 13, where he performed at several Italian restaurants. Although he attended New York's School of Industrial Art in his teens, he ultimately dropped out at 16 to help support his family financially.
By November 1944, Bennett was drafted into WWII, having moved across France and Germany and describing the experience in his memoir:
"The main thing I got out of my military experience was the realization that I am completely opposed to war. Every war is insane, no matter where it is or what it’s about. Fighting is the lowest form of human behavior."
Upon returning home in 1946, Bennett was able to attend the American Theatre Wing school and continued to perform regularly. Luck was met with opportunity when singer Pearl Bailey heard his voice and invited him to open for her, where he was also discovered by Bob Hope. Hope was actually the one to shorten his name to Tony Bennett, and from there, Bennett had signed to the famous Columbia Records.
His first hit was in 1951 with the song "Because of You", reaching number 1 on the charts and staying at that spot for ten weeks! He maintained his success throughout the '50s, with other songs like "Rags to Riches" and "In the Middle of an Island".
Bennett's career ups and downs
In 1962, Bennett won his first Grammy Awards - Record of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance for his song "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". Unfortunately for the remainder of the '60s, Tony's career was going downhill, as he had no contract, no manager, he developed a drug addiction, and his first wife Patricia had divorced him. His second wife, Sandra Grant, would also divorce him by the late '70s.
However, his sons Danny and Dae (with former wife Patricia) helped him turn his life around in every way possible during the 1980s. He was booked on many talk shows by Danny to revitalize his name and character. This resulted in the release of MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett, which went platinum and earned him the Grammy for Top Album of the Year.
Tony Bennett's career today
Tony Bennett has continued his incredible string of success ever since! His Grammy Awards from the '90s onwards include, but are not limited to:
- Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1997, Here's to the Ladies
- Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 1998, Tony Bennett on Holiday
- Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, 2000, Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool
- Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001
- Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2003, Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues
- Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2006, The Art of Romance
- Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, 2012, "Body and Soul" (with Amy Winehouse)
With a total of 19 Grammy Awards, 2 Emmys, an NEA Jazz Master, and a Kennedy Center Honoree, one could say Bennett has made his family proud. Tony also has a statue in his honor, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He's contributed so much not just to the world of jazz, but for the music community overall through his soulful voice bridged with his compassion!
At 95-years old, Tony is still attending events and of course, accepting awards. His music will always continue to inspire others! We wish him the best and great health!