Hometown: New York City, NY
Genre: Traditional Pop, Jazz
Awards: Won 17 Grammys
Albums: Over 70 albums
Hits: “Because of You,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Rags to Riches,” “Stranger in Paradise”
Tony Bennett's smooth, warm tenor and endearing stage presence has made him one of the most beloved American entertainers dating back to the 1950s. Bennett made a name for himself with his own style of jazz and a bemused attitude onstage that make his live performances all the more engaging. What's most remarkable about Bennett's career is the arc that it took over the 20th century when he was discovered and then rediscovered by an American public that grew up with him.
In the 1940s, it was Bob Hope who noticed Bennett while he was performing with the U.S. Army's entertainment corps during World War II under his original name, Anthony Dominick Benedetto. Hope convinced him to change his last name to Bennett and after a brief stint at the Paramount Theatre in New York, he was hired by Columbia Records in 1950.
Bennett's first commercial success came in 1951 with his first hit, "Because of You." The '50s would prove to be a stellar decade for the singer as he enjoyed other Billboard Top 10 hits like "Rags to Riches," "Stranger in Paradise" and "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight." But it was 1962's "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" that netted Bennett his first Grammy award, a sold out appearance at Carnegie Hall and arguably the track that showcases his full range of talents.
After making it big in the 1960s, Bennett went through a bit of a down period during the '70s and early '80s when he didn't record and focused mainly on painting. In 1986, he signed a new contract with Columbia and kicked off his musical revival. Bennett's first new album, The Art of Excellence, received critical praise for his work with soul legend Ray Charles, who teamed with Bennett for "Everybody Has the Blues." However, 1992's Perfectly Frank, a musical homage to the great Frank Sinatra, put Bennett back into the public consciousness.
Tony Bennett gave his comeback a huge boost with a MTV: Unplugged performance in 1994, which featured performances with Elvis Costello and k.d. lang and netted Bennett a Grammy award. Bennett's meteoric rise back to prominence in the '90s was an uncanny musical triumph, and helped to cement the singer's status as an American pop culture icon.