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The beautiful life lesson Tony Bennett offered us at age 95


lev radin | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 12/02/21

The crooner, who died on July 21, 2023, gave the performance of a lifetime, taking one final bow to celebrate his 95th birthday.

The legendary singer Tony Bennett (1926-2023) has sadly passed away. He was 96 years old and less than two weeks from his next birthday. Many of you will be familiar his dulcet tones from his memorable interpretations of songs such as I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

Back in 2021, the nonagenarian revealed that he had Alzheimer’s and his family explained that he had moments of confusion and uncertainty. At the same time, Bennett shared a very positive tweet reminding us that life is a gift, despite its many challenges:

And despite his challenges, in August of that year, on his 95th birthday, Bennett with his friend and fellow performer, Lady Gaga, gave a dazzling final two performances at Radio City Music Hall that were full of nostalgia, bravery, and love.

Fortunately, for fans who didn’t get to go to the sold-out concert, CBS aired it as a special, One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. While the concert-goers got to hear the birthday boy belt out classics by the likes of Frank Sinatra, they also got an important life lesson.

The former army veteran, who took part in World War II as an infantryman, stepped out on to a stage, not knowing if he would suffer from a memory lapse, or even recognize his friend and supporter, Gaga. But he wanted to give a final piece of himself before hanging up his microphone for good.

Before welcoming Bennett on stage a visibly moved Lady Gaga gave the crowd a bit of a war cry:

He’s my friend. He’s my musical companion. And he’s the greatest singer in the whole world. And I’m counting on you, New York, to make him smile. So you better cheer. You better yell. You better laugh. You better cry. You better give your soul.”

The crowd did not let her or Bennett down, as reported in They gave the star a standing ovation, which only encouraged him to sing his heart out even more. On the stage that night, he was back in all his glory.

“He became himself. He just turned on. It was like a light switch,” shared his wife Susan Benedetto with 60 Minutes last month.

This transformation is not unusual in those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Neurologist Dr. Gayatri Devi shared in the 60 Minutes program how the music was embedded in his memory:

“People respond differently based on their strengths. In Tony’s case, it’s his musical memory his ability to be a performer. Those are an innate and hardwired part of his brain. So even though he doesn’t know what the day might be, or where his apartment is, he still can sing the whole repertoire of the American Songbook and move people.”

Thanks to his friend, Lady Gaga, and the support of his family and medical professionals, Bennett was able to tap into his memory and experience the joy he has had for the majority of his life when performing to crowds.

Sadly, doctors have told Bennett it’s now time to retire from the stage, not due to his Alzheimer’s, but to the exhausting traveling involved.

And while we may bid a fond farewell to the singer who has touched many hearts over the decades, perhaps his most important performance is the one in which we saw a man say “yes” to life, under extraordinary circumstances, as Lady Gaga so eloquently shared with 60 Minutes:

It’s not a sad story. It’s emotional. It’s hard to watch somebody change. I think what’s been beautiful about this, and what’s been challenging, is to see how it affects him in some ways, but to see how it doesn’t affect his talent. I think he really pushed through something to give the world the gift of knowing that things can change, and you can still be magnificent.”

On this sad occasion, we can all thank God for creating such a wonderful and talented person as Tony Bennett. May he rest in peace and sing with the angels.

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