The attendees of the PBS portion of the Television Critics Association press tour, which is being held in Pasadena this week and next, had the privilege of hearing a mini-concert from the great Tony Bennett last night. Bennett was in fine form, belting out his classics with a voice and energy that belied the fact that he turned 85 last year.
After the concert, promoting a documentary on the recording of his “Duets II” album, Bennett sat down for a lengthy Q&A, and he had no problem voicing many lengthy and vigorous opinions, especially about the younger artists he worked with on the latest album.
For instance, he talked about Amy Winehouse, with whom he recorded a duet a few months before her untimely death. He had nothing but praise for her, even implying she sung like the greats, as he found out while comparing her to the great singers of his era and the rock era.
“Who were the singers that really sing traditionally correct? And it ended up being Amy,” he said. “She just had the gift of knowing how to sing as good, and was influenced by, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, and she just her dream was to become very, very famous doing that.”
He also mentioned Winehouse’s mother taking him aside after her death to tell him something surprising. “‘(E)ven though she had a very short life, she had a very successful life because what she really wanted, what she dreamt about her whole life happened,’ and that was so different than anything I ever heard a mother say about this tragedy that the whole world felt so bad about.”
Bennett also had a duet with Lady Gaga, and he was taken by her level of professionalism during their recording session. “When she finished recording, she went around to the whole crew and told every thanked everybody for believing in her and being so good to her. Years ago I would see that with the great professionals like Jack Benny or George Burns or Frank Sinatra, where they would really appreciate everybody that helped them out.”
Other notable tidbits: Even though Tony didn’t sing “Capital City” during his concert, Tony’s son and manager Danny Bennett talked about what he wanted from “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening when Groening wanted Tony to be one of the show’s earliest guest voices: ” I said, “I think it’s a really hip show, but what I’d like to do is to say to Matt we’ll do the song if they’ll have him as a character.” According to Danny, his dad was the first guest voice to play himself on the show.
Finally, Danny would be absolutely on board if the producers of “Glee” wanted to do a tribute episode to his dad, who doesn’t watch the show. One small problem: Tony doesn’t write any of his own songs, so Danny can’t give the permission to use them. You know what that means, right? Tony Bennett, now performing at McKinley High! It could happen… right?
Watch Tony Bennett on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”: