Tony Bennett turns 95 today, and some fans will be lucky enough to celebrate with him tonight at Radio City Music Hall. The beloved singer will perform with Lady Gaga in the first of two concerts (the other is on Aug. 5), called “One Last Time.” She tweeted, “I am so honored and excited to celebrate Tony's 95th birthday with him at these special shows.”
"Being on stage in his hometown of New York City at Radio City is the best birthday gift he could possible receive,” says Bennett's devoted wife of 14 years, Susan Benedetto, to AARP. “And sharing the stage with Lady Gaga is the icing on the cake."
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There is added poignancy to these concerts, after the revelation of Bennett's Alzheimer's disease this year. In an interview with AARP The Magazine, he and Benedetto (she uses the name Bennett was born with), shared that he was diagnosed in 2016, and since then has had progressive memory loss and disorientation — typical symptoms of Alzheimer's.
But he can still sing. Like many Alzheimer's patients, he's able to remember music (and music seems to help strengthen memory). Indeed, Bennett performed frequently until the pandemic hit, and has several more concerts scheduled through December. His spokesperson says he's doubled his rehearsal times over the past month, often with Lady Gaga, to prepare for the birthday shows.
They were always a quirky pair: classic crooner Tony Bennett and the modern-day pop-culture icon, famous for her early outrageousness (that dress made of raw beef!), hit songs ("Bad Romance,” “Poker Face") and acing the role once played by Barbra Streisand in the recent remake of A Star Is Born. But they make beautiful music together. They first joined forces on a duet “The Lady Is a Tramp” in 2011, then later on the 2014 album, Cheek to Cheek. Now they have a new jazz album coming out Oct. 1, Love For Sale.
Lady Gaga knew about his diagnosis long before it become public; Bennett's eldest son and manager, Danny, told AARP that before the family revealed it publicly, “I wanted to check with her to make sure she was cool, because she watches his back all the time. She was like, ‘Absolutely, it's just another gift that he can give to the world.'"
Bennett now lives in an apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City — which officially celebrates “Tony Bennett Day” on his birthday — and here's hoping that he's feeling the love today from his countless friends and fans. Billy Joel wished him happy birthday in a tweet, noting “I get a kick out of Tony Bennett because he sings ‘New York State of Mind’ better than anyone — including me.”
Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Paul McCartney and other stars sent video messages of love, and Lady Gaga called on fans to “post a video on Instagram Reels using the hashtag #Tonys95thBdayCard with one reason you love Tony, and we'll choose the top submissions to edit into a special card for Tony!” She added, “Let's give him the gift of love that he deserves."
Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for aarp.org and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.