Tony Bennett brings his heart (and six decades of music) to Houston
In the Old West gunslingers considered it a proper death if they met their Maker with pistols blazing. For the brave fighting men and women of the armed services, if one has to go, let it be pushing forward and with their boots on.
Things aren't as life or death dramatic in Tony Bennett's safe-and-sound world of big band entertainment and American Songbook performances, but in his own right he is a warrior and the last of a breed. And though Bennett , now age 84-1/2, swears he has no intention of retiring, I suspect when it is time, he will be singing until his last breath. And he will have a microphone in his hand, his suit pressed just right and that signature Italian-American smirk dancing across his face.
It would only be the proper way for a performance icon to make his grand exit.
Until that day Bennett will keep performing like every night could be his last and thrilling fans of all ages in the process. When he performs with the Houston Symphony on Tuesday, Bennett will be in the midst of celebrating 60 years of making the world a better place through song.
Remember all those old movies where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley were fighting GI's who entertained the troops during the "happy-go-lucky "downtime between assaults? Well, Bennett lived it as a front-line infantryman in pushes through France and Germany toward the end of WWII before his iconic singing career began. His description of it years later as a "front row seat in hell" (from 1998's, The Good Life: The Autobiography of Tony Bennettmakes it clear there were precious few of those "happy-go-lucky" moments.
After the war Bennett got his big break touring with Bob Hope and trying not to sound like Sinatra. His first single was "Because of You" and reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1951. After that came 15 years of popularity on the strength of hits like "Rags to Riches,""The Best is Yet to Come," "Can't Take that Away from Me," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "Fly Me to the Moon" that made him the toast clubs and musical halls from Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Bennett had to stand in the shadows during different rock, punk and disco eras, but when the public was ready to embrace the classics again in the mid-'90s, he was there to embrace the new generation with his Grammy winning MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett album of which he famously quipped, "I've been unplugged my whole career."
Today there are few artistic accreditations that Bennett hasn't achieved. He's sold over 50 million albums and been anointed with Grammys, Emmys, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and even as a Kennedy Center honoree (2005) for a lifetime of contribution to American culture. Without him there is no Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr. or Steve Tyrell.
And yet, even all these years later, it's clear that Bennett wants to give his all each and every night on stage. This is a chance to see the last of the truly great showman who can remember when pop standards were the soundtrack of America.