Tony Bennett, like his friend and mentor Frank Sinatra, enjoyed great success and critical acclaim before entering a fallow period out of which he would emerge a bigger star than ever.
He grew up as Anthony Dominic Benedetto, the youngest of three children in Astoria, Queens, during the Great Depression. His father died when he was a kid and his strong immigrant mother kept the family together. He was a disinterested student until he entered the High School for the Industrial Arts to study commercial art and painting. Unfortunately, he had to quit to help with the family finances.
After the war, he pursued his musical talents and eventually met singer Pearl Bailey, who introduced him to Bob Hope. Hope liked the kid's voice, but said his name was too long for a marquee and suggested the name Tony Bennett. Bennett eventually signed with Columbia Records, where he hit the big time with recordings of "Because of You" and "Cold, Cold Heart."
He achieved a sustained popularity throughout the 1960s with recordings like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and "I Wanna Be Around." Unfortunately, his forays into television and film were less than successful. As the record business continued to push out the singers of standards for the hard rockers of the 1970s, Bennett's popularity on records waned. He continued to draw audiences into clubs and concert venues, but he didn't record in the late '70s and early '80s.
He made a comeback in the mid-'80s with the addition of a new manager -- his son Danny. Soon, he was appearing on MTV and shows like "The Late Show with David Letterman." He resigned with Columbia Records and never looked back. In the past 25 years, he's acquired new generations of fans and recorded more than 15 new CDs.
-- Otto Bruno