NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Tony Bennett performs at the 9th Annual Exploring The Arts Gala founded by Tony Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto at Cipriani 42nd Street on September 28, 2015 in New York City.
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images 8th Annual Exploring The Arts Gala

Tony Bennett, Pop Music Icon, Dies at 96

Tony Bennett dominated the charts in the '50s and earned critical acclaim in recent years.

One of the most enduring and endearing figures in the history of American popular music, Tony Bennett died on Friday (July 21) at age 96.

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on Aug. 3, 1926, Bennett's known for a career as a pop and jazz crooner that spanned eight decades.

A peer of noted fan Frank Sinatra, Bennett found success covering some standards and popularizing others. Debut single "Because of You" hit No.1 in 1951, beginning a decade of dominance. That same year, his pop interpretation of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" topped the charts, as well.

In 1961, Bennett cracked the Adult Contemporary Top 10 with what remains his signature tune, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Bennett remained a fixture of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 through the decade.

Though the pop crossover hits dried up in the '70s, Bennett remained a mainstream fixture with a discography of 60-plus studio albums. His late career resurgence brought him another minor crossover hit in 2011's "Body and Soul."

A 20-time Grammy award-winner, Bennett found critical acclaim in more recent times, namely for 1994's MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett and two albums with Lady Gaga: 2014's Cheek to Cheek and 2021's Love is Here to Stay. The latter made the Guinness Book of World Records because at the age of 95 years and 60 days, Bennett was the oldest person to release a mainstream album of original material.

Bennett retired from live performing in 2021 due to Alzheimer's disease, which he got diagnosed with in 2016.

"The idea that someone who sang the great show tunes of the Eisenhower era and earlier could compete with heavy metal and rap would have previously seemed fodder for one of those rapidly aging comics who opened for Sinatra," wrote critic Will Friedwald in A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers (as quoted by Variety).

In addition to his musical talent, Bennett was a painter. Two of his paintings were commissioned by the United Nations, and he was the official artist of the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

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