5 Things to Know About Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett was more than just a legendary crooner and master song interpreter. He was a father, activist, and even a painter. Bennett passed away on July 21, 2023, after a seven-year-long battle with Alzheimer’s. He left behind a legacy of revered songs, including many collaborations with Lady Gaga. But Bennett crafted a legacy outside of music. Check out five facts you may not know about Bennett.

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1. His real name isn’t Tony Bennett

Believe it or not, Tony Bennett was not his real name. The singer was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926, in Queens, New York. He was of Italian descent from both his father and mother. He was the father of four children, including daughter Antonia Bennett who’s also a singer.

2. He helped liberate a concentration camp

In 1944, Bennett was drafted into the Army during World War II. While serving overseas, he witnessed the horrors of war, including the liberation of the Kaufering concentration camp in Germany. “It was a terrifying, demoralizing experience for me,” Bennett recalled of the harrowing experience in his autobiography, The Good Life, according to Time magazine. “I saw things no human being should ever have to see.” He was discharged from the Army in 1946.

3. He participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches

In addition to serving in the Army, Bennett was also a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, so much so that he participated in the famous marches from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery in 1965. He performed at the rally the night before Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery. Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Nina Simone also performed.

4. He was a painter

Singing wasn’t his only artistic passion. Bennett spent much of his childhood painting and later made it into a profession. Amongst his most famous works are a pair of paintings he did for the United Nations’ 50th anniversary, while his tribute painting to his late friend and fellow artist, David Hockney, Homage to Hockney, is on permanent display at the historic Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio. Fans can see many of his other paintings in his 1996 and 2007 books, Tony Bennett: What My Heart Has Seen and Tony Bennett in the Studio: A Life of Art & Music, respectively.

5. He had many famous fans

Bennett wasn’t just beloved amongst the people, he also had many fans in the entertainment industry. Comedian Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra were amongst his most famous and vocal fans, with Sinatra calling him, “The best singer in the business.” Hope actually helped get Bennett his start in the music business when he stopped by one of his early gigs in New York City.

“Bob Hope came down to check out my act,” Bennett recalled on PBS’ American Masters. “He liked my singing so much that after the show he came back to see me in my dressing room and said, ‘Come on kid, you’re going to come to the Paramount and sing with me.’”

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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