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Parade

Tony Bennett on Why He'll Never Slow Down

Tony Bennett is a music legend. Even Frank Sinatra called him “the best singer in the business.”

At 85, the beloved jazz singer made music history when his latest album, Duets II, debuted at the top of the Billboard album charts, making him the oldest recording artist ever to achieve the No. 1 spot.

Featuring some of the hottest voices in music, including Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, and the late Amy Winehouse, the album is up for several Grammy awards this year.

Bennett talked to Parade.com about his monumental career, his love of painting, and why he has no plans to retire.

On his numerous Grammy nods since his first award for 1962’s "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

“Oh, it’s always exciting. I enjoy the Grammys so much because the whole industry is there. It’s like a big convention. You meet all the celebrities at one time and it’s fun. We’re always on the road doing our own thing, so this is the one time where everybody meets and is happy to see one another.”

On the success of his Duets albums.
“If the younger singers sing quality songs, it goes over so big. We did the first Duets six years ago and that won two Grammy Awards. And now this one went to No. 1 on Billboard and everybody is laughing about it because I’m 85 years old and it went to No. 1! I just love the fact that wherever I’m playing, I’m sold out.”

On plans for a third Duets album.
“Yes, It’s going to be a Latin album with all the Latin performers from Spain and South America and Mexico — all the great performers in that nationality.

On his Amy Winehouse duet "Body and Soul" (the last song she recorded before her untimely death).

“She was a very genuine singer. She wanted to hit the top. I met her mom after she died and her mother said, ‘A lot of people feel tragic about what happened, but I know that it was her dream to become very successful and it actually happened.’ Even though she had a short life, she actually attained what she had dreamed about and wanted to do.”

On recording with Lady Gaga.

“She’s so good. She’s got the biggest fan club that I think anybody’s ever had. There are so many people that love her. She’s one of the best singers I ever heard. She also plays great piano and dances very well. She’s an all-around great performer. I’m 85 and I’ve met so many people in show business over the years and I’m very impressed with her. She’s one of the great talents coming up. She’s going to always surprise everybody with her artistry.”

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On his lasting success.
“I had very good training. I was in WWII and when I came out of that war, the G.I. Bill of Rights allowed us to go to any school that we wanted to go to to make up for the schooling that we missed while we were in the Army. I joined The American Theatre Wing and they gave us the best teachers that anybody could ever dream of. I had amazing teachers that taught me what to do and I listened to them. As a result, I’ve been able to sustain my voice all these years. I’m very fortunate. I was taught to never compromise myself and just do quality songs. This is what I’ve done my whole career.”

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On why he’ll never retire.
“I come from a wonderful Italian-American family. My father died when I was 10 and my family would make a circle around us to help my mom out. She had to raise two sons and a daughter and work during the Depression. She had to work so hard and all of my relatives helped us out. Every Sunday, my family would come over and we would entertain them. They would encourage us and they would say, ‘Look at how Tony is singing’ and ‘Look at how he paints,’ and it really created a passion in me for the rest of my life. I remember very clearly as a young boy saying, ‘This is who I am. My family is telling me that I sing well and I paint well, so I’m going to keep doing that.’ To this day, I still have a strong desire to get better and better as I get older.”

On how he stays so energetic on stage.
“I’m blessed with very, very good health. I just love to entertain people and make them feel good. And when they feel good, I just feel very content with my life. It excites me to know that I made people happy. That’s what I love to do.”

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On the first time he heard his voice on the radio.
“It was in Germany in 1946. I did the song ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ and it was the first record I ever made. It was with a great Army orchestra. I loved it. Even today, I consider it one of my favorite records that I ever made.”


On his other great love.
“I paint every day and now I’m studying sculpturing. It’s thrilling. Many years ago, when I was traveling on the road with Duke Ellington, the genius of jazz musicians, he told me that it was important to do two things, not just one. It works out great because as soon as you get a little tired of what you’re doing, you go over to the other one and that lifts you right up. Both passions help one another.”




 
 
 
 

 

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