Tony Bennett is 89 years old, he still tours the world and, last night, he won his 18th Grammy award. I’m approaching, with trepidation, 50 years old, I have been bemoaning the ageing process, the speeding up of the passage of time and the relentless skidding towards my dotage.
Tony Bennett was already almost 40 when I was born and he is still living life with an exuberance which puts me to shame! I must shake off these self indulgent, “my best years are behind me” cries which I trumpet as excuses for not getting out and living, testing myself, pushing myself, challenging myself and striving.
Tony won, with Bill Charlap, ‘BEST TRADITIONAL POP VOCAL ALBUM’ (‘The Silver Lining: The Songs Of Jerome Kern’). It is Bill Charlap’s first Grammy. What a night for those two men and their families! I salute Tony Bennett’s appetite for life as much as I salute his achievements and trophies.
Tony Bennett is one my favourites – for me, he is up there with Frank Sinatra and that is saying something.
Tony and Frank are not ‘just’ entertainers, although they do entertain (I still refer to Frank in the present tense because his legacy keeps him alive and in the present) and, for that, for the happiness and joy that they give to the world, they deserve our eternal gratitude.
But more than that, Tony and Frank deliver to us the work of the likes of Porter, the Gershwins, Van Heusen, Kern, Legrand, Cahn, Jobim, Mercer, Mandel…the list goes on…the Great American Songbook, and more…Tony and Frank team up with the greats, Bill Evans, Ralph Sharon, Riddle, May, Jenkins, with other aligned stars to bring us work which is as important in the world of music and culture as are writers like Tolstoy and Steinbeck, playwrights like Shakespeare and Coward, classical composers like Mozart and painters like Rembrandt. The music which Tony Bennett sings and performs is part of the cultural infrastructure of our lives, it is a constituent part of human life. It is a piece in the cultural jigsaw of life.
Tony Bennett is as important as the great composers in whose minds the music was first conceived and fertilised. Porter, Gershwins, Mercer, Van Heusen, Bennett, Sinatra, Tormé…they ALL sit at the top table.
Congratulation, Tony Bennett, thank you for the music. Thank you for the hours and hours and hours of joy that you have given to me.
In case I haven’t made myself clear, let me say this: I love Tony Bennett.