Legendary American singer Tony Bennett has passed away, at the age of 96. His publicist, Sylvia Weiner, announced his death, and though no cause of death is immediately known, Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. Bennett is survived by his four children from his first two marriages; he had been married to current wife Susan Crow, 56, since 2007.
The lifelong New Yorker and pop-jazz vocalist whose career spanned eight decades was known for his warm persona and simple yet consistent interpretations of the Great American Songbook. His last public performance was in August 2021 with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall for a concert called “One Last Time”; Gaga and Bennett collaborated and developed a close relationship over the years, releasing several chart-topping recordings together.
Bennett, whose career took off in the ‘50s and ‘60s, including his biggest hit, 1962’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” devoted his career to preserving the integrity of classic American songs— written by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hammerstein and others. He also maintained longevity in each decade by finding ways to connect with new generations; in the ‘90s, he performed for “MTV Unplugged” and the resulting album won Grammy of the year. In 2006 and 2011, a pair of “Duets” albums—which include songs with Mariah Carey, Amy Winehouse, Queen Latifah and John Mayer—also introduced him to new audiences.
His relationship with Lady Gaga was particularly well-known; in 2014, the Chromatica singer credited Bennett with saving her life and keeping her from quitting music as she promoted their album Cheek to Cheek. The pair recorded a second album in 2021, Love for Sale, and following their “One Last Time” show, Gaga honored Bennett at the 2022 Grammys, singing “Love for Sale” and “Do I Love You” solo due to Bennett’s deteriorating health condition.
Bennett was also known for his liberal politics and advocating for human rights, famously participating in the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march in 1965 and performing along with Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr. and others at the Stars for Freedom rally on the City of St. Jude campus in Montgomery the night before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “How Long? Not Long” speech. At 19, he was part of the American armed forces that liberated concentration camps, including Dachau, from the Nazis, experiences that greatly impacted him and his worldviews.
After his death was announced on the morning of July 21st, tributes poured in, starting with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who wrote on Twitter: “A working class kid from Queens, Tony Bennett sang our song to the world. Don’t let the lyrics fool you – he left is heart right here in New York City. May he rest in peace.”
Bette Midler wrote, “The Singer’s Singer, Tony Bennett, has died. I’m thankful I was alive during his musical reign, to hear and treasure the music he made and the man himself.”
See more tributes from Elton John, the Amy Winehouse Foundation, Brian Wilson and more below: