What I like most about The Good Life is that Mr. Bennett so openly shares with us the love of his family: his parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and children. Both my parents grew up during the Great Depression (my father was born in the same month and year as Mr. Bennett), but his story of the poverty and sacrifices his family had to make is intense and touching. That said, it’s not a sentimental telling at all. It’s straightforward and he shares with us the full arc from sadness and tragedy to the love and support of his family.
Mr. Bennett was drafted into the Army soon after he turned 18; after basic training, he was sent to the front as one of many replacements in Patton’s army after the invasion on the march to Berlin. His description of the horrors of war is brutally honest; I feel the emotions of a sensitive young man thrown into the horrors of the front. We are used to hearing about the Greatest Generation; Mr. Bennett tells us the real story of brutality, racism, ugliness, and death.
Tony Bennett came out of World War II as a pacifist and has always spoken out against unnecessary wars.
Raised by his parents to respect all humans, regardless of race or ethnicity, he has throughout his entire life, been a constant voice in the civil rights battles of our country.
What really struck me was how hard and for how long he had to work to become the singer he knew he had to be. Living at home with his family, spending 20 cents a day to take the subway into the city and look for work is a lesson to anyone who has a dream. I suspect that many others would have given up on his dreams during those years. If you ever need a reminder about the importance of seeing something through, I suggest you read this book.
We come to love and respect his mother, who raised her family nearly alone after the death of her husband when Tony was a young boy of ten.
The Good Life gives us a look into the pressures of making it in the business of being a singer. The seven-shows-a-day grind at the Paramount Theater are described in great detail. We follow Mr. Bennett through his marriages and the birth of his children and the rise of rock-and-roll music and how the music business changed everything and ruined many careers.
And, of course, the amazing restart of his career that we today enjoy so much.
If you’re a fan of Mr. Bennett (and if you’re reading this blog, you must be), be sure to read The Good Life.
Bennett, Tony with Friedwald, Will. The Good Life. New York: Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Widely available and in print.
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