Whether for sentimental value or because it’s a damn fine listen — that’s right Virginia, not all octogenarians are Santa Claus — Tony Bennett — Mr. I Left My Heart In San Francisco — reached #1 on the Billboard 200 charts with Duets II.
His latest album, a reprise of his 2006 Duets: An American Classic, pairs Bennett with the late Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga singing The Lady is a Tramp, Norah Jones, Carrie Underwood, k.d. lang, Andrea Bocelli and Mariah Carey for a total of 17 partners in all.
With Duets II the 85-year-old crooner also makes history as the oldest living artist to reach #1 beating Bob Dylan who was 67 when Together Through Life debuted at the top spot in 2009.
With all the drugs, drama and shenanigans shall we say taking place in our world it’s nice to every decade or so run one of these up the charts. Does anyone remember Susan Boyle?
While discussing tracks from the album, Bennett remarked his personal favorite cut to be the 1939 Coleman Hawkins recording of composer Johnny Green’s song Body and Soul. The song and record always reminds him of the days in New York City when, as a young man, he would visit various jazz clubs on 52nd Street, Swing Street, and see and hear giants like Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Art Tatum, Lester Young, and Billie Holiday.
Hearing the perfect song, Tony invited Amy Winehouse to record the track in London at the famed Abbey Road Studios.
“Contemporary popular music artists, for the most part, have experienced primarily rock music in their lives … but then along comes Amy Winehouse who has such an innate sense and feeling for jazz,” Bennett said.
“Amy’s idol is Dinah Washington truly one of the best singers I’ve known in my life. I found Amy to be one of the most focused and professional artists I’ve collaborated with … She was a gifted and very spontaneous singer … She knew how to be in the moment. You sense that feeling in every note she sings on Body and Soul. I was just knocked out with her singing and so was everyone else at the session.”
With millions of records sold worldwide and platinum and gold albums to his credit, Bennett has received 15 Grammy Awards — including a 1995 Grammy for Record of the Year for his MTV Unplugged CD which introduced Tony to a whole new generation — and the Grammy Lifetime Award.
His initial successes came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950s, including such chart-toppers as Because of You, Rags to Riches, and a remake of Hank Williams Cold, Cold Heart. Bennett had 24 songs in the Top 40, including I Wanna Be Around, The Good Life, and his signature song, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, recorded 50 years ago this coming January 2012. This song garnered him two Grammy Awards.
In 2005, Bennett became a Kennedy Center Honoree and was named an NEA Jazz Master in January of 2006 as well as a Citizen of the World award from the United Nations and a Billboard Magazine Century Award in honor of his outstanding contributions to music.
Tony Bennett is one of a handful of artists to have new albums charting in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and now in the first two decades of the 21st century. He has introduced a multitude of songs into the Great American Songbook that have since become standards for pop music.
Bay Area fans can catch Tony during his Sunday performance at the Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert October 23 at Shoreline Amphitheatre.