Tony Bennett: Legendary singer dies aged 96

Tony Bennett, the legendary New York pop and jazz singer, has died aged 96.

Bennett was known for songs such as The Way You Look Tonight, Body and Soul and (I Left My Heart) In San Francisco.

He also collaborated with star performers from Lady Gaga to Aretha Franklin and Frank Sinatra, who called him “the best singer in the business”.

During a career that spanned eight decades, the crooner sold millions of records and won 20 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award.

His death was confirmed by his publicist Sylvia Weiner in a statement to the Associated Press.

She said he died in his hometown of New York. There was no specific cause of death, but Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, to a family of Italian immigrants, Bennett was just 10 years old when his father died, plunging the family into poverty.

As a teenager he became a singing waiter before enrolling to study music and painting at New York’s School of Industrial Art.

He was drafted into the US Army in 1944 to fight in France and Germany towards the end of World War Two. “It’s legalized murder,” he said of the scarring experience in an interview with the Guardian in 2013.

After returning home, his singing career continued – first under the name Joe Bari – and his breakthrough came in 1951 with the song Because of You, which gave him his first number-one.

Bennett soon became a teenage icon, releasing his first album in 1952. He went on to chart in the US in every subsequent decade of his life, with hits like Blue Velvet and Rags to Riches.

The singer built a reputation for making timeless swinging pop hits and, later, show tunes and big band numbers.

He enjoyed revival in the 1980s and 1990s, when Grammy Awards flooded in for the star, then in his sixties.

In an interview with the Independent in 2008, Bennett said he had not been surprised by his renewed success.

“Good music is good music,” he said. “I’m not concerned with whether someone who listens to me is old or young. In fact, in many ways, I’m not interested in the young at all.

“I’m interested in age. People learn to live properly when they get of an age, you know? The late Duke Ellington once said to me that he was really offended by the word category.

“Music has no category; it’s either good or it isn’t, and I sing good songs, great songs, written by the best songwriters. It’s that kind of quality that makes them last. Trust me, people will be singing these songs forever.”

He remained perpetually cool enough to win over new legions of fans.

Four years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Bennett performed his final shows alongside Gaga, with whom, for younger fans, he became closely associated.

He posted on social media at the time: “Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s.”

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