In light of the terrible events from Hurricane Sandy, the Year of Tony Bennett hopes that Mr. Bennett and all of his family and associates are safe and sound. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, as well as with everyone at RPM Productions and Benedetto Arts.
In recognition of her upcoming birthday on November 2, The Year of Tony Bennett is very pleased to announce k.d. lang week.
I have been a fan of k.d. lang since the 1987 Angel With A Lariat, the cassette of which was permanently lodged in my car stereo for many months. The release the next year of Shadowland, produced by Owen Bradley and featuring guest performances with Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells, was a more typical country album than Angel With A Lariat and, for me, told me that this punk cowgirl from Canada was a real performer to be reckoned with. Her 1989 album Absolute Torch and Twang won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and further introduced her to American audiences.
For this author, the song that made me a permanent fan of hers was her 1990 recording of So In Love for Red Hot + Blue, an album of Cole Porter songs sung by popular artists from several genres (the album was an AIDS fundraiser), was the first time I heard her sing from the American songbook. Along with the brilliantly directed and conceived video for the song, I knew then that I wanted to hear her sing more jazz and songs from the songbook. I got my wish with Constant Craving in 1992, for which she won another very well-deserved Grammy, this time for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
In 1994, she appeared as a guest on Tony Bennett’s MTV Unplugged television show, where they performed their first duet, Moonglow. They have sung together ever since, including their work on Playing With My Friends, their album A Wonderful World, Duets and Duets II. We will be featuring their songs all week as songs of the day all week on The Year of Tony Bennett.
She is currently touring with her band, the Siss Boom Bang.
The writers at the Year of Tony Bennett also welcome her to our home town on Portland.
I don’t know how Tony Bennett and k.d. lang found each other back in 1994, but I am profoundly grateful that they did, as their music together is really magical.
Over his career, Tony Bennett has won many awards and has been recognized for his artistic and philanthropic endeavors.
In this post, we recognize his sixteen awards from The Recording Academy. In addition to the
sixteen seventeen eighteen Grammy awards won by Mr. Bennett, he received The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
|Year||Award||Song or Album|
|1963||Best Solo Performance, Male||“I Left My Heart In San Francisco”|
|1963||Record of the Year||I Left My Heart In San Francisco|
|1993||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||Perfectly Frank|
|1994||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||Steppin’ Out|
|1995||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett|
|1995||Album of the Year||MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett|
|1997||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||Here’s To The Ladies|
|1998||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||Tony Bennett On Holiday|
|2000||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance||Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool|
|2001||Lifetime Achievement Award|
|2003||Best Traditional Pop Album||Playin’ With My Friends: Bennett Sings The Blues|
|2004||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||A Wonderful World (with k.d. lang)|
|2006||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||The Art of Romance|
|2007||Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals||For Once In My Life (with Stevie Wonder)|
|2012||Best Pop Duo/Group Performance||“Body and Soul” (with Amy Winehouse)|
|2012||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||Duets II|
|2015||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||Cheek To Cheek (with Lady Gaga)|
|2016||Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern (with Bill Charlap)|
Because of the very nature of singing, it is sometimes difficult to find words to define the art of the singer. We can talk technically: pitch, tempo, keys and these elements of technique are important to the singer, as they are the tools that the singer uses. But to find words to express the artistry of a song are sometimes hard to find.
Jonathan Schwartz has observed that Tony Bennett started out as short story writer, as a singer whose music was released as singles, and evolved to a novelist, with the release of some of his early concept albums, such as Cloud 7, Beat of My Heart, and Hometown, My Town. And that is certainly true: with those albums, Tony Bennett exhibited a complex and thorough understanding of the arc of an album and these three albums, even fifty years later, stand as exceptionally well-thought out albums.
I’m also reminded of Eileen Stritch’s observation from her one woman show of singing Stephen Sondheim’s three-act play, The Ladies Who Lunch.
This past Sunday morning, as I do almost every Sunday morning, I listened to Weekend Edition Sunday on National Public Radio. One of the guests on the program was the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, author of A Thousand Mornings. Ms. Oliver writes mostly about nature. As the interview progressed, she said several things that I found quite interesting:
I did understand that any artistic venture requires a lot of discipline.
The woods that most recently I walked in, they’re not gone but they’re full of bicycle trails and – I grew up in a town that was 3,500 people in Ohio, very pastoral and there were woods to go to. That town is now over 250,000 people. And this is happening to the world and I think it is very, very dangerous for our future generations, those of us who believe that the world is not only necessary to us in its pristine state but it is in itself an act of some kind of spiritual thing. I said once, and I think this is true, the world did not have to be beautiful to work, but it is.
When questioned by the interviewer on how she finds new words to describe what she sees, after decades of writing poetry:
I suppose by paying very close, close, close attention to things and seeing new details. I love words. I love the mechanics of poetry. I often speak of the choreography of the poem on the page. And to find a new word that is accurate and different, you have to be alert for it. It’s wonderful. It’s fun.
All of this began to remind me of how the singer begins to approach the song, especially a singer who, like Tony Bennett, is a heart a jazz musician. I recently had the good fortune to hear Mr. Bennett perform live three times in three weeks. And even though the set lists for all three performances were essentially the same, the songs varied in ways both subtle and profound over those three concerts. A pause here. A small change in tempo there. Inverting the notes to the top notes of the chord. But these small changes made all the difference in the emotional message of the performance. There may be musical theory explanations of these things, but to this listener, they are a purity of artistic intent that makes Mr. Bennett’s performances very close to perfection on many levels.
But Mary Oliver said one additional thing that I found very important:
One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are, they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.
This seems to me to be exactly what Tony Bennett does as a singer. Even with the amazingly beautiful sound of his voice (which I love), what really comes through is him communicating the meaning of the lyrics. He has said:
My ambition is to actually sound better as I get older. It’s all about meaning it more, giving it more depth. Being genuine.
We know that Tony Bennett is an artist of the highest order, both as painter and a singer. But I believe that he is also a poet. This quote of his completely mirrors Ms. Oliver’s statement:
The business of knowing what to leave out. That happens with age. Less is more. And it becomes more of a performance. It tugs the listeners’ heart by knowing that it’s just in the right pocket, right in the right groove.
Or, as Bill Evans said to Tony Bennett:
I want to tell you one thing: just think truth and beauty. Forget about everything else. Just concentrate on truth and beauty, that’s all.
And if all that doesn’t mean that Tony Bennett is a poet, I don’t know what does.
The NPR interview with Mary Oliver can be heard here.
We are happy to wish a very happy birthday to Happy!https://twitter.com/itstonybennett/status/257908980322557952
Happy may be the cutest dog in the whole world. She certainly seems to be the happiest!