Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tony Bennett--I Left My Heart In San Fransicso (1962)

     In every area of life there are those who defy the odds that other succumb to. Tony Bennett turns 85 today and shows no signs of slowing down. I don't think it would be overstating the fact that his career has been more successful the last 10 years than at any point in his life.

     He came up in the early 50's as a crooner who's success began to wane during the British Invasion. As opposed to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin however, his career trajectory took a quicker dive, and by the end of the 70's he found himself without a manager, no recording contracts, his second marriage was failing, was in trouble with the IRS,  and was not performing outside of Las Vegas. To add to this, he had developed a cocaine habit.

      Enter his son Danny....

       Danny Bennett at the time was with a struggling country-rock band, 'Quacky Duck and His Barnyard Friends" (you can look it up..). Late in 1979, his dad called and asked for help. The elder Bennett's life was a mess and was desperate to not only resurrect his career, but straighten his life out. Danny was taking stock of his life as well, and after a promising start in 1974, his musical career was on a downhill slide as well. He came to realize during this time that the business side of music was something that was of interest to him. So Danny agreed to become his dad's manager.

     Over the next six years, Tony moved back to New York while Danny worked on getting his dad's finances straight with the IRS and began to put a plan in place to get him back in the spotlight. It was Danny's belief that an audience of younger fans were out there. No one of the "MTV" generation had heard the style of music that his dad was singing, and believed it would be well received. The plan was not to change a thing, for Tony to continue to wear his tuxedos, to continue to sing from The Great American Songbook, and just be himself.

     To make this plan happen, he reunited Bennett with his old pianist and musical director, Ralph Sharon. The move to New York was to detach from the "Vegas" image.  By 1986 he was signed to a new contract with Columbia. Then a re-introduction to television via David Letterman, Conan O'Brian, various non musical shows (like The Simpsons), and most notability MTV. The response was nothing short of amazing as a generation of teenagers who were for the most part at least two generations separated from the style of music that was popular during Bennett's early years. The masterful work by Danny, and the tireless work on the road that Tony has put in not only revived his career, but has made him a wealthy man. Happy Birthday to an American musical icon..... 


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