September 30, 2023
Tony Violanti

It was February 7, 2018, and for a uncommon time as a journalist I felt a way of historical past. I used to be in The Sharon masking a Tony Bennett live performance.

The environment was electrical.

You simply had the sensation this was going to be an unforgettable live performance.
And it was.
Tony Bennett died Friday at 96 in New York Metropolis.
However 5 years in the past, Tony Bennett, 91, was in The Villages. He supplied a packed viewers the chance to expertise an indelible a part of American music historical past.

Bennett’s recording profession stretched again to the early ‘50s, along with his first massive hit “Due to You.” It culminated over 70 years later with a duet album with Girl GaGa.

Tony Bennett on stage at The Sharon in 2018.

In August, 2021, Bennett and Girl GaGa performed Radio Metropolis Music Corridor in his last public efficiency to have a good time his 95th birthday. The final track they sang was “The Girl Is A Tramp,” and he or she helped him off stage in an emotional farewell.
Quickly after, Bennett introduced he had been identified with Alzheimer’s illness, and would now not sing in public.

In The Sharon, there was a forbidding sense of mortality. All of us questioned how for much longer a 91-year-old singer might go on.

Might it’s, we might solely be watching the shadow of greatness? Was it solely nostalgia Bennett would provide? Was the golden voice tarnished by age?
Tony Bennett confirmed no indicators of slowing down. His acquainted voice was as comforting and intoxicating as ever.

I normally battle writing the lead – the start of a narrative. On this night time, it got here straightforward, as I wrote:

 “Age is a quantity.

Time is a second. 

And Tony Bennett’s music transcends the previous and the current.

It’s timeless, ageless and common – identical to the singer.” 

Early on, he carried out “This Is All I Ask,” a reflective track about dwelling, dying and dealing with a altering world.

Tony Bennett introduced emotion to his music on stage at The Sharon.

“As I method the prime of my life,” Bennett sang early on. As he sang that lyric, he seemed out into the gang and also you couldn’t assist however discover a mischievous grin on his face.
 All of us acquired the joke. This man – like so many getting older individuals in The Villages – was having a ball along with his life and defying expectations. That line resonated with the aged followers, and the mild giggle was audible.

“The boys and I play all around the world, however I believe I’d be completely satisfied dwelling right here,” Bennett mentioned, and the viewers roared with approval. That was Tony Bennett – he all the time discovered a strategy to join with an viewers. His heat stage demeanor, pleasure in performing and humanity had been as a lot part of his enchantment as his voice.

Frank Sinatra described him this manner in an interview with Life journal:
“For my cash, Tony Bennett is one of the best singer within the enterprise. He excites me after I watch him. He strikes me. He’s the singer who will get throughout what the composer has in thoughts, and doubtless just a little extra.”
Girl GaGa (Stefani Germanotta) instructed USA Right now that working with Bennett “was a present that I’ll maintain in my coronary heart until my final breath. My time with Tony has modified me eternally.”

Villager Jan Lavin is a singer who was impressed by Tony Bennett’s efficiency in 2018.

Jan Lavin is a well-liked singer within the Villages and was moved by his efficiency right here.

“Tony Bennett has been a musical mentor for me,” she mentioned. “The best way he carried out tonight was an inspiration. I simply need him to maintain singing his songs, and I need to hold singing them.”

And people songs had been a part of America’s songbook and our lives. On that night time, amongst these he carried out: “Due to You,” “Jealous Coronary heart,” “Who Can I Flip To,” “Simply In Time,” and “The Good Life.”

There was extra, after all: Bennett did a brief, sleek tender shoe, throughout “Stepping Out With My Child.” He supplied a contact of cha-cha to a Latin beat on “The Shadow of Your Smile.”

Then Bennett turned on the pathos for a damaged coronary heart on “Boulevard of Damaged Goals.” The temper was blue and melancholy on “Somebody to Watch Over Me.” And he buried his blues with some booze within the final saloon track, “One For My Child and One Extra For the Highway.”

And I’m sitting there considering: Oh man, how fortunate I’m to be in The Villages tonight truly seeing Tony Bennett in particular person sing these songs.
I wasn’t the one one majestically remodeled listening to Tony Bennett.
“It’s his voice and the fantastic music he sings,” mentioned Villager Joan Weintraub. “Tony Bennett is so calm on stage, he brings these songs to life and also you don’t even notice it.”

Perhaps that’s why Bennett – born in Queens as Anthony Dominick Benedetto – known as his biography, “The Good Life.”

No Bennett live performance could be full with out his 1962 commonplace, “I Left My Coronary heart in San Francisco.” As he sang that track in The Sharon, swiftly Bennett needed to sneeze.
With out skipping a beat, Bennett picked up the track the place he left off, and didn’t miss a beat. He was rewarded with one in every of six standing ovations he earned that exceptional night time.

The reminiscence of that live performance – like his songs that earned almost 20 Grammy Awards and about 60 million information offered – will endure. Bennett is survived by his spouse, Susan Benedetto, and 4 kids, together with his daughter Antonia Bennett, a singer who was with him in The Villages.

 “I’m so fortunate, I get to journey world wide with my Dad and hearken to him sing,” she mentioned that night time.
We had been all fortunate to be graced by the great life and nice music of Tony Bennett.

Tony Violanti covers music and leisure for He was inducted into The Buffalo Music Corridor of Fame as a music journalist.