No one else in popular American music has recorded for so long and at such a high level of excellence as Tony Bennett. In the last ten years alone he has sold ten million records. The essence of his longevity and high artistic achievement was imbued in him in his loving childhood home in the Astoria section of Queens where he was born on August 3, 1926. His father died when Tony was 10 and his mother, Anna, raised Tony and his older brother and sister, John and Mary, in a home surrounded by loving relatives who were Tony’s first fans filling him with encouragement and optimism. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he continued nurturing his two passions, singing and painting. From the radio he developed a love of music, hearing Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and James Durante.
As a teenager Tony sang while waiting on tables, and then enlisted in the Army during World War II. While in Europe he performed with military bands. He later had vocal studies at the American Theatre Wing School. The first time Bennett sang in a nightclub was in 1946 when he sat in with trombonist Tyree Glenn at the Shangri-La in Astoria. Bennett's big break came in 1949 when comedian Bob Hope noticed him working with Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village in New York City. As Bennett recalls, “Bob Hope came down to check out my act. He liked my singing so much that after the show he came back to see me in my dressing room and said, ‘Come on kid, you're going to come to the Paramount and sing with me.’ But first he told me he didn't care for my stage name (Joe Bari) and asked me what my real name was. I told him, ‘My name is Anthony Dominick Benedetto’ and he said, ‘We’ll call you Tony Bennett.’ And that's how it happened. A new Americanized name—the start of a wonderful career and a glorious adventure that has continued for over 60 years.”
With millions of records sold worldwide and platinum and gold albums to his credit, Bennett has received seventeen Grammy Awards—including a 1995 Grammy for Record of the Year for his “MTV Unplugged” CD, which introduced this American master to a whole new generation—and the Grammy Lifetime Award. His 2007 prime-time special, “Tony Bennett: An American Classic,” won seven Emmy Awards. His initial successes came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950's, including such chart-toppers as “Because of You,” “Rags to Riches,” and a remake of Hank Williams “Cold, Cold Heart.” He had 24 songs in the Top 40, including “I Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life,” “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” and his signature song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” which garnered him two Grammy Awards.