Friday, July 21, 2023

Americans for the Arts mourns the passing of legendary entertainer Tony Bennett, who died on Friday, July 21, at the age of 96. One of only a handful of artists to have new albums charting in each of the last seven decades, Bennett was the winner of 19 GRAMMY® and 2 Emmy awards, endearing himself to millions with his honest renderings of American classics, as well as jazz and pop songs from the Gershwins to Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday to Cole Porter, as the interpreter of someone’s words and music striving to please his audiences. Bennett joined Americans for the Arts’ Artists Committee in 2017, to advance the arts and arts education in America.

The iconic performer was proof positive that music and the arts transcend age, genre, and definition by reinventing himself numerous times, appealing to a new generation of fans at each turn, and thus becoming, at the age of 88, the oldest artist to have a #1 album.  Bennett’s artistry and popularity rose higher than ever in recent decades, as he collaborated with such greats as Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and most famously, Lady Gaga. His lifelong love of painting never waned, and his work is displayed in public and private collections, including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto, a former public school teacher, founded Exploring the Arts (ETA) in 1999, to strengthen the role of the arts in public high school education. In 2001, in partnership with the NYC Department of Education, ETA established the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a public arts high school. ETA partners with a network of 56 partner schools in New York City and Los Angeles./p>

Bennett was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005, was a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006, and was named a “Citizen of the World” by the United Nations for his social justice and humanitarian efforts, including accompanying Martin Luther King, Jr. on the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.  An accomplished painter, he has three works in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution and has authored five books.

Americans for the Arts honored Tony’s iconic career and his commitment to art and community in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2004 with the Legacy Public Leadership in the Arts Award and again in 2016 at the National Arts Awards in New York City with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tony was open about being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and in 2016 became an advocate for the more than 6 million Americans living with the disease. He continued to perform throughout the last years of his life.

Americans for the Arts is fortunate to have been associated with Tony and those closest to him.

His impact and legacy are indelible.