Tony celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday. There has never been a more enduring performer than Tony Bennett and I do not mean this simply because of his age – and his ongoing tour schedule! His endurance in popularity flies in the face of listeners’ fickle musical tastes over the past 7 decades. Throughout continuous change in what is considered “popular” music, Tony has remained at the top of the charts AND at the top of his game, and not just in the jazz idiom.
Seeing him perform this week on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, I could not believe the power and quality of his voice. “Could not believe” being a figure of speech of course: this is TONY BENNETT after all.
Tony’s popularity throughout the years is easily demonstrated by his numerous Grammy Awards. Perhaps most astounding are Tony’s wins in popular music in recent years, he reaching incredible new heights of success with his 2014 win for the extremely popular Cheek to Cheek album with Lady Gaga.
I was fortunate to see Tony perform about 5 years ago in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I remember being outside the Jubilee Auditorium and seeing his limousine pull up around back. It was exceptionally – or rather, typically – cold in Calgary that winter day. My curiosity about what Tony must have thought of the -30 C day was soon satisfied when he joked soon after taking the stage: “Last time I was in Calgary I said it would be a cold day [in hell] when I return. I was right.” With his small ensemble (piano, bass and drums) he commanded that stage like no one else I had seen. And this in his mid-80s!
So now at 90, and he in the twilight of his life, Tony in no way seems to be in the twilight of his career. Singing Gordon Jenkins’ “This is All I Ask” only the way Tony can, he smiled broadly at the Late Show audience as he delivered the lyric, “As I approach the prime of my life, I find I have the time of my life.” And judging by that smile, he certainly is having the time of his life. And WHAT A LIFE!