His name epitomizes American entertainment in its heyday. His repertoire boasts songbook standards “Blue Velvet,” “Rags to Riches” and “Stranger in Paradise.” His pedigree includes a tour with Bob Hope and a contract with Columbia Records.
An 86-year-old legend, Tony Bennett comes to the Kravis Center March 2 in the midst of a richly rejuvenated career that is leaving a legacy of a more modern kind on popular culture.
Bennett appears unstoppable, and the man said he has no plans to retire. Last year, he took home a pair of Grammy Awards for Duets II, a project that garnered Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Body and Soul,” recorded with Amy Winehouse. The wins chalked up Bennett’s 16th and 17th golden gramophones.
The resilient performer also stars in The Zen of Bennett, a touching documentary portraying his more than half-century career, and he recently authored an inspiring memoir titled Life Is a Gift. In January, he belted out “The Lady Is a Tramp” with pop partner Lady Gaga at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“Tony appeals to people of all ages,” said Lee Bell, senior director of programming at the Kravis Center. “The audience can expect a memorable evening of song and sweet memories.”
The coat-and-tie-wearing celebrity said the performing arts center in West Palm Beach stands out as one of his favorite gigs of the year.
“I have been performing in Florida each year for so many decades, and I just love coming back,” Bennett said. “I love the people, there is a great sense of hospitality, and the Kravis Center is a magnificent hall to perform at, so I look forward to being back there.”
Offstage, the singing sensation indulges in one of his biggest passions: painting. He has painted under his family name, Anthony Benedetto, since childhood and finds time every day to pick up a brush.
PBG Lifestyle Magazine asked Bennett not only about the time he spends behind the canvas, but also in front of the microphone, in an exclusive Q&A.
PBGLM: What is the inspiration behind your artwork?
TB: Nature is always my inspiration when I paint, and I like to communicate truth and beauty in both my art and music. I work with various media such as oil, watercolor, pastels, pen and ink. When I am on the road, I tend to sketch or do watercolor since it’s easier to travel with, and then when I am home in my art studio, I like to work with oil. I always find time to paint the natural beauty of the scenery in Florida whenever I visit.
PBGLM: What motivates you to try new things and keep making music after all these years?
TB: I always believe you are only as good as your next show, so I tend to think about what’s coming up next rather than what has already passed. I like to keep doing new projects and learning new things. One of my favorite quotes is from the brilliant musician Pablo Casals, who said, “At any given moment, you can learn.” That has truly been my inspiration.
PBGLM: What would you consider to be your turning point – something that made you into the brand name you are today?
TB: I would have to say one of the biggest boosts to my career that I received was when Frank Sinatra did a big profile in LIFE magazine in the late ’50s and said that I was his favorite singer. From that point on, every year, Frank would say something nice about me to the media or at his shows, and his audience would then come to see me perform…. He was truly a best friend to me even though I wasn’t part of the Rat Pack and lived on the East Coast while he was out on the West Coast.
PBGLM: Over the years, how have audiences changed, and how have you changed to adapt?
TB: I am not sure that I can really answer to that, but I will tell you that my attitude toward the audience has never changed, and it has always been to respect the audience, to give them quality songs and the best musicians, and to make sure that they are entertained. There is no such thing as a bad audience, only a bad performance.
PBGLM: Do you have any plans to retire?
TB: I get asked that quite often, and I usually respond, “Retire to what? I am doing what I love most right now.” I have to say I truly feel that I have never worked a day in my life, as singing and painting have been the two things that I am compelled to do, so it never feels like work.