Legendary musician Tony Bennett, who was best known for singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” has died at the age of 96 according to his publicist Sylvia Weiner.
Bennett passed away in his hometown of New York and was just two weeks shy of celebrating his birthday.
His cause of death is not known at this time. In 2016, Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but somehow managed to keep performing until 2021.
Bennett was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on Aug. 3, 1926, in Astoria in the Queens borough of New York City. Before entering the music field, he served in the U.S. army during World War II and saw combat in Germany. As the LA Times notes, Bennett stayed in the service as part of the occupying force and started singing with various Army bands after the war concluded.
He got his official start in music world while studying singing at the American Theatre Wing. As NBC News reported, African American singer Pearl Bailey reportedly discovered Bennett and hired him to open for her in 1949.
Thus began a career that spanned almost eight decades. Here are just some of his career’s biggest highlights according to NBC:
His signature hit, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” arrived in 1962 as a B-side that launched him to the A-list.
The songs effectively straddled the worlds of pop and jazz while earning critical acclaim: Bennett won the 1962 Grammys for record of the year and solo vocal performance.
The statuettes would prove to be the first of 20 Grammys over his seven-decade career, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He won his last Grammy for his collaborative album with Lady Gaga, “Love For Sale,” which was released in 2021.
Other accolades in his celebrated career include two Emmy awards and being named a Kennedy Center honoree, a Gershwin Prize honoree and a NEA Jazz Master.
In addition to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” Bennett had other classic songs such as “Rags To Riches,” “My Foolish Heart,” “Because Of You,” and “I Wanna Be Around.”
Bennett was also active in the civil rights movement. Actor Harry Belafonte recruited him for Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 march from Selma, Alabama. This was considered a risky career decision at the time because his audience was largely white.
Bennett explained to Larry King in 1998 interview why he entered the musical world. He hoped to continue singing for the rest of his life.
I just decided that … I would love to become successful, and if I didn’t, I’m going to do this the rest of my life. I loved it.
Bennett is survived by his wife, Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, his daughters Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett, and his nine grandchildren.