Was there ever a pop figure more genuinely likable than Tony Bennett?
Bennett, who passed away on Friday at the age of 96, was affably and unwaveringly single-minded throughout a career that began in the 1940s. He didn’t follow trends. He didn’t get defensive either. Instead, he let listeners, and in recent decades much younger duet partners, come to him across generations. He welcomed them into his repertoire of songs that he admired, knew well, and was happy to share.
Bennett sang vintage pop standards, the pre-rock canon, also known as The Great American Songbook. These songs are mostly about adult love, courtship, longing and fulfillment, featuring elegant rhymes and original melodies that invite a bit of improvisation. He has recorded with orchestras, major jazz musicians, big bands and for over 50 years with pianist and arranger Ralph Sharon and his trio. he was always unplugged. That simple fact charged his career spectacularly in 1994 when he appeared on ‘MTV Unplugged’.
Bennett’s voice evaporated the technical challenges of his songs. As a young man, he showcased a near-manipulable range and dynamic control on early recordings such as: “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” But he was no outdated crooner. The feel of his swing was just as strong. And he understood that pure virtuosity can alienate listeners. He soon revealed a grain that gave his voice an earthiness and familiarity, and downplayed his accuracy. Very often his expressions contained hilarious knowledge. He hammered notes before the beat as if he couldn’t wait to sing it.
His songs always had an airy intensity, with a confident baritone underlying them. Even with his big band behind him, he was brave enough to stand up for his opinion. But he didn’t blaze through his songs. He always paid attention to lyrics. his signature song “I left my heart in San Francisco” There are two melodic peaks near the end. The first is the line “When I get home.” He maintains “home” and diminishes it with vibrato, yearning, as if feeling the distance. Soon after, “Your Golden Sun Shines for Me” comes and he sings “Sun” as if he knows to bathe in the sun.
Bennett’s long career was also marked by commercial ups and downs and occasional record label pressures. As the 1960s drew to a close, he was persuaded to record recent pop hits for the album Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!, but maintained a degree of dignity by placing lavish orchestral arrangements behind songs like George Harrison. “something.”
After changing labels and launching his own short-lived but artistically rewarding improv label in the mid-1970s, Bennett returned to what he did best: singing standards with musicians who unlocked the potential of jazz. Harmony-investigating pianist Bill Evans and his two albums — “Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album” (1975) and “Together Again” (1977), both piano and voice duets, are shining evidence that Bennett never took familiar tunes for granted.
He was 67 when he recorded MTV Unplugged with Sharon’s trio and a guest appearance by Elvis Costello. It was a shrewd and satisfying act. Bennett became Pop’s cool grandpa. Rock-hating Grammy voters seized the chance to give him his second Album of the Year award (after “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”), and current rock and pop performers embraced the opportunity to sing with and learn from him. Duet albums (with KD Lang, Diana Krall, Lady Gaga) and individual duet tracks (especially Aretha Franklin, BB King, Willie Nelson, Bono, Christina Aguilera, Queen Latifah, Amy Winehouse) revealed how admired, endurance, well-rounded, and game he is. I love even the awkward moments.
In later years, Bennett’s voice deepened and deepened, but used that quality to draw out a mature perspective.Slow motion version of Jerome Kern “How you look tonight” The song is from the 2007 compilation “Things the American Songbook, Vol. 1” by Latter Day Bennett. A little rattled, a little quivering, and gloriously affectionate, affirming long-standing love, not just “tonight.” As he sings, a heartbreaking laugh is heard, “That laugh that wrinkles the nose/Touches my foolish heart.” These lyrics were written in his 1936, and Bennett still heard every line and approached the tune.