Tony Bennet, the last of the great saloon singers from the mid-20th century, died Friday. He was 96 years old.
Bennett’s publicist, Sylvia Weiner, confirmed his death to Scripps News on Friday, saying he passed away in his hometown of New York. No specific cause of death was given, but Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.
Bennet was well-known for his iconic songs like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and "Fly Me to the Moon" during a decades-long career that brought him admirers like Frank Sinatra and, most recently, Lady Gaga, whom he performed with in 2021 to a sold-out crowd at Radio City Music Hall.
Born in 1926 in Queens, New York, Bennett released his first single in 1951 with the song "Because of You," which launched an unparalleled career that spanned over seven decades and included 19 Grammy Awards. From his smooth crooning classics like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and "Fly Me to the Moon" to captivating collaborations with other musical legends, his soulful and emotional performances left an enduring mark on the industry and beyond.
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In 2014, at the age of 88, Bennett became the oldest performer—for a second time—to have an album reach the Billboard top 200. He did it previously at the age of 85.
Having served as a soldier in World War II, Bennett became a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian, his publicist said. He also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965 and was a devoted supporter of human rights. He was also a long-time painter, with three of his works being included in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Along with his wife, Susan Bendetto, Bennett also founded the non-profit group Exploring the Arts to provide support to emerging high school artists. Later in life, when asked how he’d want to be remembered, Bennett said "as a nice person."
He is survived by his wife, Susan Benedetto, sons Danny and Dae Bennett, daughters Johanna and Antonia Bennett, and nine grandchildren.