When Tony Bennett passed away on July 21 at the age of 96, he left an incredible legacy behind.

Born Anthony Benedetto on August 3, 1926 in Queens NYC, he went on to win 20 Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Primetime Emmy Awards.

Bennett also sold more than 50 million records worldwide in a career that spanned seven decades and saw him release more than 70 albums. His iconic choices of music to record, matched with his phrasing and sense of timing, put him in the same conversation as Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole.

As 1970 approached and his career hit a lull thanks in part to changes in musical tastes among the buying public, Clive Davis from Columbia Records attempted to rejuvenate Bennett’s image by having him record an album of more contemporary music. The result – Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! – was a commercial and critical failure.

Audiences didn’t want to hear Bennett singing the likes of the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and Jimmy Webb. For his part, Bennett was so dismayed by the label forcing him to make the record that it helped him decide to leave Columbia Records.

That whole episode is rather ironic when you consider how Bennett would go on to reinvent his career thanks in part to his son Danny taking over his father’s career and putting in motion a plan to get Bennett’s music in front of a younger audience.

The result – appearances on Late Night With David Letterman as well as The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien – started the ball rolling and ultimately led to an MTV Unplugged performance accompanied by Elvis Costello and k.d. lang.

As fate would have it, though Bennett may have initially been put off by his record company’s attempt to make him appear hipper in 1970, in later years many rock artists would themselves go on to record standards made popular by Bennett himself.

  • Glenn Frey - The Good Life

    Four years prior to his death in 2016, Eagles frontman Glenn Frey released an album of standards called After Hours.

    A collection of songs originally recorded by the likes of Nat “King” Cole, Dusty Springfield, and Frank Sinatra, Frey noted in the liner notes that this album was in tribute to his parents and the music they played in his home as a child.

    Frey’s take on “The Good Life” really stands out on the record.

  • Van Morrison - I Left My Heart In San Francisco

    Van Morrison‘s take on what is perhaps Tony Bennett’s signature song is pure Van.

    As an artist who always puts his personal stamp on everything he does, Morrison’s version of San Francisco keeps the feel of Bennett’s classic version but make no mistake – Van the Man takes listeners to a special place on this recording.

  • Rod Stewart - The Very Thought of You

    “The Very Thought of You” dates back to 1934 and has been recorded by a number of artists including Billie Holliday, Nat “King” Cole, and Tony Bennett (twice).

    Rod Stewart has recorded five albums in his Great American Songbook series, each one with marvelous takes on some of the greatest songs ever written. A true rock vocal legend, Stewart’s reincarnation as a crooner is in full evidence throughout these songs, but especially on this live version of “The Very Thought of You.”

    And Stewart’s self-deprecating sense of humor about his hair in this live performance is positively delightful!

  • Pat DiNizio - The Days of Wine and Roses

    In 1975, Tony Bennett and jazz pianist Bill Evans went into a recording studio in Berkeley CA and made what some feel was among Bennett’s finest moments.

    Stripped down to just piano and voice, the Bennett-Evans combination really let the power of Bennett’s voice shine through, especially on songs like “The Days of Wine and Roses.”

    In 2006, Smithereens front man Pat DiNizio brought pianist Jay Rowe into his Scotch Plains NJ living room and recorded an album of standards in the style of what Bennett and Evans had done more than 30 years prior.

    The result – This Is Pat DiNizio – was just Pat’s voice and Jay’s piano and each track was done in just one take.

  • Pat DiNizio - The Shadow of Your Smile

    Written for the 1965 film The Sandpiper, “The Shadow of Your Smile” has been recorded by dozens of artists over the years, with Tony Bennett scoring a minor hit with the song in 1966.

    Coming from the same album as “The Days of Wine and Roses,” this is in the same voice/piano style.

    Listening now after Pat’s untimely passing in 2017.

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