Tony Bennett, Legendary Pop Vocalist, Dies At 96

Tony Bennett performs at Royal Albert Hall on June 27, 2017, in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Tony Bennett, one of the great saloon singers and preservers of the Great American Songbook for the past eight decades, died Friday, two weeks shy of his birthday. He was 96.

Publicist Sylvia Weiner confirmed to the Associated Press that Bennett died in New York but did not specify a cause. The legendary crooner was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

His social media pages also confirmed the news and posted, “Tony left us today, but he was still singing the other day at his piano and his last song was ‘Because of You,’ his first No. 1 hit.”

Despite that diagnosis, Bennett, who was known for the song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” carried on and continued adding more accolades to his illustrious career. He won a Grammy Award in 2022 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Love For Sale, which was his second collaboration LP with Lady Gaga. Overall, the singer won 19 Grammy Awards and a lifetime achievement award in 2002.

Bennett & Sinatra
Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett pose for a portrait in July of 1980 in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

One of his best friends and mentor was Frank Sinatra, who admired Bennett’s vocals.

“For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business,” Sinatra told Life magazine in 1965. “He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind and probably a little more.”

His smooth, clear voice added warmth to his music, which honored great American composers such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Bennett’s son, Danny, managed him later in his career and helped the singer find a new audience with releases such as his MTV: Unplugged album, which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Bennett also found success later in life by collaborating with contemporary artists and his peers. He worked with Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Amy Winehouse and Carrie Underwood. He also had crossover collaborations, recording with the late legendary mariachi singer Vicente Fernandez in 2012.

“So sad to hear of Tony’s passing,” Elton John posted on Instagram along with a photo of himself with Bennett. “Without a doubt the classiest singer, man and performer you will ever see. He’s irreplaceable. I loved and adored him.”

Stevie Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band also paid his respects to Bennett on social media, calling him “the best of the best.”

“The last of the legends. A man whose heart was as big as his voice. The world’s foremost practitioner of ‘Art of Excellence,’” Van Zandt wrote.

Bennett was just as successful on the live circuit, grossing more than $86 million since March 1999, according to 439 headline reports submitted to Pollstar. The iconic singer and pianist sold nearly 1.2 million tickets during that same period and averaged a gross of $197,365 per concert. The most recent report was a show at Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey, a performance that earned him $171,118 from 1,449 tickets sold. One of his highest-grossing concerts in the past five years was a nearly sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall in April 2019. Bennett’s performance in his hometown earned him $470,089.