Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Long Island City, Queens, to a family of Italian immigrants, Bennett was just ten years old when his father died, plunging the family into poverty.
As a teenager, he became a singing waiter before enrolling to study music and painting at New York’s School of Industrial Art.
He was drafted into the US Army in 1944 to fight in France and Germany towards the end of World War Two.
After returning home, his singing career continued – first under the name Joe Bari – and his breakthrough came in 1951 with the song Because of You, which gave him his first #1.
Bennett soon became a teenage icon, releasing his first album in 1952.
He went on to chart in the US in every subsequent decade of his life, building a reputation for making timeless swinging pop hits – like Blue Velvet and Rags to Riches – and, later, show tunes and big band numbers.
His 1962 version of a song from the previous decade, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, sent his star into an even bigger orbit, winning him two Grammys.
Bennett also supported the civil rights movement and participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches while refusing to perform in apartheid-era South Africa.
However, with the arrival of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, his relevance faded. Personal problems followed, including two failed marriages and drug addiction. He performed through the pain, recording two records with pianist Bill Evans.
After hiring his son Danny to become his manager and reuniting with his pianist and musical director Ralph Sharon, his fortunes began to change.
He enjoyed a revival in the 1980s and 1990s, when Grammy awards flooded in for the star, then in his sixties.
His 1986 comeback album, The Art of Excellence, got the ball rolling again for the star who had returned to New York from Las Vegas.
He followed it with the chart-topping Perfectly Frank – a tribute to his musical hero Frank Sinatra – before 1994’s MTV Unplugged saw Bennett win the Grammy for album of the year and win over a new legion of fans.
He collaborated with many younger artists who adored him, including Amy Winehouse and Queen Latifah, on the follow-up to Duets: An American Classic (2006), which had earlier seen him sing with Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and George Michael.
in 2014, his joint album with Lady Gaga, Cheek to Cheek, made him the oldest living act to reach the top of the US charts, at 88, breaking his previous record. Gaga described the results of working with the “legend” as “the most important album of my career.”
Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2016. He performed his final shows alongside Lady Gaga, with whom he became closely associated.
Away from music, as a keen painter, Bennett had his work displayed in galleries. He also founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in his hometown, Queens.
Tony Bennett died in his hometown of New York City on 21 July 2023, 13 days before his 97th birthday.