Jul 24, 2023

The Legacy of Tony Bennett Transcript

The Legacy of Tony Bennett Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsTony BennettThe Legacy of Tony Bennett Transcript

Tony Bennett, one of the greatest pop/jazz singers of all time, died on July 21, 2023 at the age of 96. Read the transcript here.

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Mo Rocca (00:01):

In life, he was the one and only Tony Bennett. In death, his legacy endures.

Tony Bennett (00:16):


Mo Rocca (00:17):

In 1951, Tony Bennett’s first big hit, Because of You, reached number one on the pop charts, and sold more than 1 million copies.

Tony Bennett (00:29):


Mo Rocca (00:30):

And because of Tony Bennett, music lovers of all ages would fall in love with the classic standards of the pre-rock and roll era that Bennett interpreted and reinterpreted throughout his career.

Tony Bennett (00:43):


Danny Bennett (00:49):

He didn’t bridge the generation gap, he destroyed it.

Mo Rocca (00:52):

His son and manager, Danny Bennett, told us this past Friday that his father, who had lost much of his memory to Alzheimer’s, stayed connected to the songs he cherished until the very end.

Danny Bennett (01:05):

I’ll share something typical with Alzheimer’s. The person would go in and out, and he would have times when he was alert, and other times when he wasn’t. And he was with Susan, his wonderful wife, and he said, “Susan, was I always popular?” And she said, “Yeah, of course you were.” He said, “Good, because I stayed with quality.”

Mo Rocca (01:28):

The son of Italian immigrants, Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in a working class neighborhood of Queens, New York, where he began singing at an early age.

Tony Bennett (01:38):

To this day, I remember very clearly saying to myself, “If I never make it, I don’t care. I’m going to keep singing. I’d love to make a living singing.”

Mo Rocca (01:47):

Bennett served in the US Army during World War II, seeing combat in France and Germany.

What did he tell you about his time in the armed forces?

Danny Bennett (01:56):

I mean, I think he suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome, like a lot of veterans did, and didn’t talk about at the time. All he said was, “War is the worst, lowest common denominator in humanity.” And he came out a pacifist.

Mo Rocca (02:11):

After the war, the singer, then known as Joe Bari, opened for Bob Hope, who asked what Bennett’s real name was.

Tony Bennett (02:19):

I said, “Anthony Dominick Benedetto.” “Well, that’s a little long,” he said, “But why don’t we call you Tony Bennett?” Bob Hope gave me my name.

Mo Rocca (02:26):

Tony Bennett wasn’t an immediate hit.

Tony Bennett (02:29):

The first review I got said that, “Well, another Italian mama’s boy with a gravel voice has come about.” That was the first review. It was a terrible review, I was shocked by it.

Mo Rocca (02:41):

Yes, sometimes critics get it really wrong.

Tony Bennett (02:57):


Mo Rocca (02:58):

In 1962, Bennett recorded what would become his signature song.

A lot of people could be forgiven for thinking Tony Bennett grew up riding the cable cars of San Francisco.

Scott Simon (03:09):

No, no, no. He told me that he really had barely seen a cable car.

Mo Rocca (03:14):

NPR host Scott Simon co-wrote Bennett’s memoir, Just Getting Started.

Scott Simon (03:19):

At the time he saw the sheet music he was on a 1961 nightclub tour. He was in Hot Springs, Arkansas. And Tony began to sing, and said the bartender who was cleaning up said, “Damn, if you guys record that, I’ll buy your first copy.”

Mo Rocca (03:35):

The song won him the first of 20 Grammy Awards.

Tony Bennett (03:50):


Mo Rocca (03:52):

Bennett also gave his voice to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965, he joined the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Privately, he was equally committed to the cause. Some of Bennett’s biggest fans were his fellow artists. Frank Sinatra once told Life Magazine, “For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.”

Speaker 6 (04:15):

He changed my career.

Speaker 7 (04:16):

He did.

Speaker 6 (04:17):

All of his fans wanted to find out about what he was talking about.

Speaker 8 (04:21):

Tony’s going to come on now and he’s going to tear the seats out of the place for you, because he’s my man, this cat. Mr. Tony Bennett, thank you very much.

Mo Rocca (04:30):

And can I ask you, a lot of great singers in the very beginning imitate other singers. Did he do that at all in the beginning of his career?

Danny Bennett (04:38):

Tony’s line was, “Listen, if you copy one person, you’re a thief. If you’re copying many,” he says, “You’re doing research.” I mean, the secret, Tony emulated saxophone players. It was instrumental. That’s where he got his inspiration, through the musicians.

Tony Bennett (04:59):


Scott Simon (05:00):

I think Tony took songs that a lot of people knew, and he put such personality into them. He put such a depth of feeling. He had a great voice, but he also had a kind of rasp in it that was almost like you could hear somebody making the station announcements on the Number 7 train.

Mo Rocca (05:22):

But in the 1970s, Tony Bennett’s life went off the rails.

Tony Bennett (05:27):

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church-

Mo Rocca (05:30):

Trying gamely, but unsuccessfully, to sing rock and roll, he was abusing alcohol and cocaine, at one point, almost drowning in his bathtub.

Scott Simon (05:39):

And I think something that was harder for him to talk about, but he touched on it on me, was it got bad because it affected his family and the relationship with his family, which I think is what really got to him. But, you know, he pulled himself out.

Mo Rocca (05:53):

He called on his son Danny, who took over his career. They decided that the songs of Tony’s past would be his way forward.

Tony Bennett (06:04):


Mo Rocca (06:04):

By the early 1990s, Tony Bennett was in heavy rotation with groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

Tony Bennett (06:17):


Danny Bennett (06:17):

I mean, this is what he taught us. Music has a transcendent quality. Any great art has a transcendent quality. And when you are true to the art, that’s where the masterpieces are hanging in the museums, right? There’s no gimmick to Renoir.

Mo Rocca (06:33):

A fitting comparison. When Bennett wasn’t holding a mic, he was handling a brush. Bennett said he loved to paint as much as he loved to sing. Tony Bennett’s own comeback may have explained his connection with the late British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse.

Tony Bennett, Amy Winehouse (06:54):


Scott Simon (06:54):

He knew her well enough to understand something of her troubles. He saw a future for Amy Winehouse, and he wanted to put a reassuring hand on her and let her know that if she let her talent speak up, he would be there to support her.

Tony Bennett, Amy Winehouse (07:12):


Mo Rocca (07:24):

They recorded this duet just two weeks before Winehouse’s death from alcohol poisoning at age 27.

Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga (07:31):


Mo Rocca (07:36):

He found even greater success with Lady Gaga, who was in her own kind of artistic rut when the two met.

Lady Gaga (07:43):

You know, Tony, that’s one of the first things he said to me, is he said, “Don’t you ever, ever, ever, ever, again, or in the future, let anybody take down the quality or the intelligence of what you do.”

Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga (08:02):


Mo Rocca (08:09):

Tony Bennett took his final bow alongside Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall in August 2021.

Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga (08:18):


Mo Rocca (08:21):

Five years after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the performance was a smashing success. But the disease had already taken its toll, as 60 Minutes’ Anderson Cooper observed.

Lady Gaga (08:32):

You were spectacular.

Anderson Cooper (08:34):

A few days after that triumph, we met Tony and Susan on their daily walk in Central Park.

How’d you feel about the concert the other night? Were you happy?

Tony Bennett (08:44):

I don’t know what you mean.

Anderson Cooper (08:45):

I saw you at Radio City. You did a great job.

Tony Bennett (08:47):

Oh, thank you very much.

Mo Rocca (08:49):

Tony had no memory of playing Radio City at all. But Danny Bennett says his father never forgot those songs.

Tony Bennett (09:00):


Danny Bennett (09:06):

He was singing up until a week ago. Towards the end here, he became pretty much immobile. Put him next to a piano, and he turned to Susan, his wife, and he was just standing at the piano, and he said, “What do you want to hear?” And she said, “Whatever you want to sing.” And his last song, he sang Because of You.

Mo Rocca (09:28):

Which was his first big hit, right?

Danny Bennett (09:30):

It was his first big hit. What can I tell you?

Tony Bennett, k.d. lang (09:40):


Danny Bennett (09:48):

I was with him a couple hours before he passed. And again, I roused him. He opened his eyes and he looked at me with that smile and said, “Thank you.” And those were the last words he said to me.

Tony Bennett (10:30):


Mo Rocca (10:31):

Thank you, Tony Bennett.

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