With coronavirus continuing to ravage the country, health has been on the forefront of our minds. But one music icon has been dealing with a very different battle.
Tony Bennett, the traditional jazz singer and longtime industry staple, revealed on Monday he had been battling Alzheimer’s since 2016. The artist tweeted:
“Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s. Thank you to Susan and my family for their support, and @AARP The Magazine for telling my story.”
In truth, as the AARP The Magazine article revealed, it wasn’t Tony’s decision to come forward with his diagnosis as much as it was his wife, Susan Benedetto, and his son and manager, Danny Bennett. The team decided to publicize his journey as a way to promote his new album with Lady GaGa — and to share the ways that music has improved his quality of life as he fights the disease. Danny recalled the Born This Way artist’s opinion that opening up about Alzheimer’s was “another gift that [Tony] can give the world.”
The piece is an intimate look at the 94-year-old’s life with the often debilitating cognitive illness. One touching passage described the two musicians sharing moments in the studio. It read:
“In raw documentary footage of the sessions, he speaks rarely, and when he does his words are halting; at times, he seems lost and bewildered. Gaga, clearly aware of his condition, keeps her utterances short and simple (as is recommended by experts in the disease when talking to Alzheimer’s patients). ‘You sound so good, Tony,’ she tells him at one point. ‘Thanks,’ is his one-word response. She says that she thinks ‘all the time’ about their 2015 tour. Tony looks at her wordlessly. ‘Wasn’t that fun every night?’ she prompts him. ‘Yeah,’ he says, uncertainly.”
The article continued:
“The pain and sadness in Gaga’s face is clear at such moments — but never more so than in an extraordinarily moving sequence in which Tony (a man she calls ‘an incredible mentor, and friend, and father figure’) sings a solo passage of a love song. Gaga looks on, from behind her mic, her smile breaking into a quiver, her eyes brimming, before she puts her hands over her face and sobs.”
Susan reflected that music had saved Tony’s life “many times,” but particularly in the years since his 2016 diagnosis: while his memory began to fade, his regular performances helped keep him sharp, and he remained prolific in his art. Sadly, the loss of that performing outlet during the COVID-19 crisis has led to a decline in cognitive function. The family decided to promote the new album, due in the spring, in Tony’s stead, particularly because it might be his last.
Tony Bennett has undoubtedly accomplished incredible things in his 70+ year career, let alone in these last years while also managing his health. We can’t wait to hear the new album and appreciate his family’s vulnerability in sharing this story with the world.
[Image via KIKA/WENN/Ivan Nikolov]