Tony Bennett, the iconic American singer, died Friday in New York according to his longtime publicist. He was 96, just two weeks shy of his 97th birthday.
The cause of death was not immediately known. Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016. His last public appearance was in August 2021, when he performed with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall.
As news of Bennett’s death spread, tributes began to pour in from around the world. We've collected some of the most notable reactions in the blog below.
• Born in Queens, N.Y., on Aug. 3, 1926
• Won 19 Grammy Awards, 2 Emmy Awards and received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award
• Known for hits like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” and “Rags to Riches”
• Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016
• Survived by his wife Susan, two daughters, two sons and nine grandchildren
Bennett 'was an American classic,' Biden says
Tony Bennett circa 1970. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Late Friday afternoon the White House released the following statement from President Biden on the passing of Tony Bennett:
For more than 70 years, Tony Bennett didn’t just sing the classics — he himself was an American classic. Resisting the pull to adjust his style to fit in with the times, his distinct voice gave melody and rhythm about the good life, how the best is yet to come, the way you look tonight, and leaving your heart in San Francisco.
Starting out as a singing waiter in New York City, he became one of America's most beloved performers, selling tens of millions of records and winning over generations of fans. He always found new audiences and collaborators to enchant — the mark of a truly timeless artist.
Along the way, he lived history. He helped liberate prisoners at a subcamp of Dachau. He joined the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He performed for Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, and Queen Elizabeth II, and recorded music with everyone from the Count Basie Orchestra to Lady Gaga. Bob Hope gave him his stage name. Frank Sinatra was his mentor. There's no doubt about it — Tony Bennett's life was legendary. And his contributions to the arts in America will endure.
Jill and I have been fans of Tony's music for a long time — not only because of his beautiful voice, but also the joy that he brought to everything he did. We send our deepest condolences to his family and fans around the world.
Bennett and Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 2021. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
"He saved my life."
— Lady Gaga on Tony Bennett in a 2014 interview with People magazine
Tony Bennett was also an accomplished painter
Bennett In his Manhattan penthouse apartment art studio in June 2002. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Tony Dozois, Yahoo News copy editor: As an amateur painter studying at NYC’s Art Students League, I was not surprised to learn years back that among my League classmates was one of my favorite singers, Tony Bennett, aka Anthony Benedetto. I knew he was a dedicated painter, mostly in watercolor, and the school had enough respect — which it doesn't bestow lightly — to give him a special exhibition titled "The Art of Tony Bennett/Anthony Benedetto." Here's its description of the show:
"Tony Bennett is an accomplished painter whose passion for the visual arts began as a child growing up in Astoria, Queens and has flourished throughout his life. Painting under his given name of Anthony Benedetto, he has three paintings in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and has exhibited his artwork in museums and galleries throughout the world. Whether performing in concert for sold-out audiences or painting in his art studio in New York City, Tony Bennett has used his exceptional creative talents to search for 'truth and beauty' in his artistry. The world-renowned entertainer and painter will accept The League’s Everett Raymond Kinstler Lifetime Achievement Award, named after Everett Raymond 'Ray' Kinstler, the American portraitist who recently passed away, and was a longtime friend of Bennett and an Art Students League Instructor. This exhibition celebrates Bennett’s exemplary service to the arts which has touched so many lives within our creative enclave and beyond."
Bennett's paintings ranged from landscapes to self-portraits. You can check out some of them here.
Elton John on Tony Bennett's death: 'Irreplaceable'
Elton John and Tony Bennett at a benefit for the Rainforest Foundation at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1999. (Scott Gries/ImageDirect via Getty Images)
In an Instagram post on Friday, Elton John wrote of the legendary singer: "So sad to hear of Tony’s passing. Without doubt the classiest singer, man, and performer you will ever see. He’s irreplaceable. I loved and adored him. Condolences to Susan, Danny and the family."
'Who didn’t Tony Bennett duet with?'
Bennett and Amy Winehouse following his 2010 concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. (Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
That's the question posed by the Hollywood Reporter following Bennett's death at 96. The legendary singer was famously known for his duet albums, which featured everyone from Barbra Streisand to Amy Winehouse.
Tony Bennett: The early years
Bennett and his family in 1957. (David McLane/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Sammy Davis Jr. and Bennett perform on a television show circa 1960. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Bennett at the Hilton Hotel in New York City in 1968. (Brian Randle/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Bennett with his daughter Joanna and wife, Sandra, at the London Zoo in 1972. (Bill Rowntree/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)