What can we say about an artist whose career is as colossal, even titanic, as Tony Bennett's? For six decades now, the crooner has been making a constant comeback, achieving his greatest success at the age of 85 and having played with some of the greatest names in the world: from the jazzmen of the 1950s to today's pop icons. Back to this monster of swing.
1950. It was the time of three-piece costumes, jazzy and groovy music, microphones with a string to hold as you walked around the stage, and golden voices. This was the era of Sinatra, who brought him to the forefront of the stage and called him a "singer for singers" because he always attracted the best when he performed in concert. But also the time when Duke Ellington and Bill Evans were playing their pianos. It was finally the great era for Tony Bennett, who rubbed shoulders with each of these immense artists, as if they were members of an ultra-select club made up of virtuosity and pure talent.
And if the years passed, the Italian-born crooner remained. He has gone through decades of music without blinking an eye, perfecting his work. Shining at times like a star illuminating a black sky. Sometimes waiting in the shadows patiently for his audience to finally come to him. Proud that he has "never made a record for money" in his entire career. Proud too that I have never "worked a single day in my life, since I chose to dedicate my life to music". For talent is almost innate, as is his presence and class on stage.
At more than 90 years of age, this legendary artist, memory of almost a century of music, is still as gifted as ever, brush or microphone in hand. A complete artist, whose paintings adorn the walls of the Smithsonian's museums and whose records continue to sell worldwide. Now it is pop icons that are replacing the masters of jazz. Because Tony Bennett, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, is a master at reinventing his genre.
His drawing teacher advised him to give up his pencils to devote himself entirely to music. And it's done! In the 40's, he participated in several tele-hooks and made his debut at Columbia Records. But it was in 1951 that the young crooner released his first hit, Because of You, which heralded a series of resounding hits, made up of the singer's own lyrical flights of fancy against a string orchestra background. His mad popularity continued throughout the 50s and 60s, with the release of his famous In the Middle of an Island in 1957 and regular performances in jazz clubs.
As for many, the 1980s were difficult years for Tony Bennett. Between 1978 and 1986, his fans faced a disturbing radio silence. It was his son Dany who offered him a way out, pushing him to take the situation in the wrong direction and making him appear in TV shows where he was not expected. This is how the crooner, with his stereotypical Italian features, will end up as a mascot in the Muppet Show. The beginning of the end of his long desert crossing.
The programme was more customary of Nirvana or the Gallagher brothers. But in 1994, it was Tony Bennett that the MTV Unplugged Show decided to invite. In front of an audience of young people and in a perfect dinner jacket, the Italian once again seduces. A moment of grace shared with his musicians that seems to hypnotize this audience who know him little. A second birth and a second breath of life for his career which starts up again at a runaway pace. Tribute albums, albums of duets and European tours are once again on the programme!
At the age of 85, this master of swing ranks for the first time in his immense career at the top of the Billboard charts with his opus Duets II. He notably delivers a magnificent title, Body and Soul, a duet with the great Madonna Amy Winehouse, who died only a few months earlier. Three years later, he appeared with a pop star. He won a Grammy Award for Cheek to cheek, in collaboration with the turbulent Lady Gaga. And in 2018, he'll be back, this time with jazz star Diana Krall. And at over 90 years of age, Tony Bennett still doesn't intend to stop singing!
Artists who can still set fires in their nineties must be counted on the fingers of one hand, but Tony Bennett is one of them. Last night, he deployed all of his vocal and musical talent to bring us back to the great hours of his career and make us rediscover the classics of jazz. A moment of pure delight for attentive ears.
Few artists can boast a career that is now approaching 70 years old! And Tony Bennett does it with the natural class and flawless vocal technique that he has always been known for. Better yet, he reinvents himself and doesn't hesitate to step out of his jazzy comfort zone to take artists from different horizons on board! And it is always an honour to welcome him to France for one of his demonstration concerts.
Flying in the face of all the predictions that an artist should be at the peak of his popularity at a young age, Tony Bennett achieved his greatest success last year at the age of 85. A wonderful reward for an artist whose career has spanned the last sixty years. Very popular in the United States, this great jazz singer has for the occasion regained the favour of the international public. A few weeks ago, he was singing on the stage of the Olympia in Paris, a city where he hadn't performed for a quarter of a century.