'If We Never Meet Again...' Tony Bennett Passes at 96

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business,” no less than Frank Sinatra told “Life” magazine in 1965. “He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.”


Bennett passed away on Friday at the age of 96, following a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

For a guy who launched his recording career in the early ’50s, singing alongside American Songbook masters like Count Basie, Ray Conniff, Ralph Burns, and so many more, Bennett enjoyed a remarkably long and varied recording career. Partly that’s because Bennett had a timeless jazz sensibility, but also because he invested himself in the lyric of a song — even standards audiences had already heard a thousand other times by dozens of other singers — as few others could.

But by the mid-’70s, the times had passed him by. By the ’80s, he was nearly broke and in debt to the IRS. Just before the ’90s got rolling, thanks to new management from his son, Danny, Bennett enjoyed a resurgence in sales and popularity. He released an endlessly entertaining series of themed albums, starting with “The Art of Excellence.” He was accompanied on that one by pianist Ralph Sharon, who would record with Bennett numerous times over the next 20-plus years, usually with a small jazz trio.

Other highlights from Bennett’s ’90s renaissance include three tribute albums, “Perfectly Frank” (Sinatra, of course), “Tony Bennett on Holiday,” and “Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool.”


If you’re looking for an old-school selection of romantic recordings, check out “The Art of Romance” from 2004. That one includes Phil Woods on sax, and as Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ know, getting Woods to perform even just one track on your album makes it 40% better. Getting him to play on the whole thing increases that to 327%.

He even recorded an album of Louis Armstrong numbers in 2002 as duets with kd lang, and somehow they made that unlikely pairing effortlessly work.

A particular favorite of mine was 1993’s “Steppin’ Out.” That one featured Bennett and Sharon recording numbers that had either been written for Fred Astaire or popularized by him. I was 24 or 25 when I saw it on the CD racks, at a time when I was expanding my collection and listening tastes. So I took a chance, unheard, just because I knew his name and liked the cover. I’m still listening to gems like “Who Cares?” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” to this day.

It occurs to me now that I’ve been listening to Bennett for half of his six-decade career. I know how he got so old, but how did that ever happen to me?


Bennett released his final studio album, “The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern,” 2015. In 2021, he performed “Love For Sale” as a duet with Lady Gaga and became the oldest person ever to hit number one on the charts.

He won 19 Grammys and sang for every president from Eisenhower to Obama.

Yeah, Bennett was a gun-control nut — but so what? I didn’t buy his albums to get a lecture, and he never delivered one. Instead, he delivered the goods on single after single, album after album, concert after concert, from 1952 until 2021.

I picture him going out today the way the way I was introduced to him 30 years ago — in top hat, white tie, and tails.

Rest in peace.

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