Music icon Tony Bennett has died at the age of 96.
The acclaimed singer, most known for hits including New York State of Mind, Rags to Riches and his collaborations with Lady Gaga, died at his home in New York earlier today.
His publicist confirmed the news and explained that he died just two weeks before his birthday.
‘Tony Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens on August 3rd, 1926, has passed away in his hometown of New York City at the age of 96 earlier today,’ they told People Magazine in a statement.
‘The beloved singer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2016, is survived by his wife, Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, his daughters Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett and nine grandchildren.’
His cause of death has not been shared, but he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016.
The New York born musician crafted his love of singing from a very early age, and impressed many with his talents when he was just a child.
He was drafted into the army in 1944 and returned to the US two years later, where he embarked on a hugely successful a career in the spotlight.
It was in 1949 that he was given a break, opening for Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village – Bob Hope was in the audience and took a shine to the late star, instructing him to change his name publicly from Benedetto to Bennett.
Bennett landed his first record deal the following year and released a string of hits including Because of You and Cold, Cold Heart, which went on to hit the number one spot.
In 1952, he released his debut album, Because of You, and went on to drop Cloud 7, the Beat of my Heart and To My Wonderful One.
His 1953 track Rags to Riches was famously heard in the opening credits of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
As well as selling millions of records, he picked up an astonishing 20 Grammys over his decades-long career, including a lifetime achievement award in 2001.
He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994 thanks to his track, I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
Bennett was celebrated by fans, critics and his peers but it was Frank Sinatra who offered him the highest of praise, declaring in a 1965 interview: ‘For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.
‘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.’
Throughout his career, he went on to collaborate with musical greats including Christina Aguilera, Aretha Franklin and Amy Winehouse.
He also worked frequently with Lady Gaga, most recently releasing their joint album, Love For Sale in 2021.
Gaga became emotional as she dedicated her Grammys performance to the singer in 2022, after he was too ill to attend.
‘We love you Tony, we miss you,’ she said at the time.
The music legend was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016, and revealed the news of his condition in 2021.
Tweeting a link to an interview with AARP, he wrote: ‘Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s.
‘Thank you to [my wife] Susan and my family for their support, and AARP The Magazine for telling my story.’
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
In most, the symptoms first appear in their mid-60s and eventually leaves them dependent on caregivers.
Despite the condition, he continued to perform for five years, before retiring from the stage in 2021.
Bennett is survived by his wife, Susan, their children, Danny, Dae, Johanna and Antonia, and nine grandchildren.
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