Why Change a Bennett?
Here’s a story about Tony Bennett:
It’s the 1960s and Bennett, a premier pop idol of the ‘50s whose popularity took a downturn when the Beatles and their rock ‘n’ roll brethren took over the charts, turned to old friend Count Basie for advice. Should he update his style to fit the times? Bennett asked the great jazz bandleader. Basie responded with the succinctness he was famous for as a pianist: “Why change an apple?”
In other words, don’t mess with something that’s as close to perfection as this world is capable of producing.
Bennett has heeded that advice through the decades and has been rewarded as no other artist of his generation. He made great records in the ‘70s, recording standards with small ensembles for his short-lived but revered Improv label. In the ‘90s, he became an MTV darling by simply being himself, and walked away with the 1995 Best Album of the Year GRAMMY™ Award for MTV Unplugged. In the years since, he’s remained in the spotlight, working with elite collaborators and generating sterling work.
Bennett is experiencing yet another resurgence with the release of Duets II, a star-laden set that finds the master stylist teamed with the biggest names in contemporary music, including Lady Gaga, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé, Norah Jones and, in the final recording made before her death in July, Amy Winehouse. Scan the songwriter credits, however, and you’ll find names that were au courant when the World War II vet was singing for his supper on New York’s 52nd Street: Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Ellington, Mercer and Arlen. Bennett found his sound long ago and wisely has stuck to a goal he set for himself as a young man – to be a keeper of the flame.
So the next time you take a bite of an apple, think of Tony singing “Body and Soul” or “The Way You Look Tonight.”