Today brought with it the sad news that legendary singer Tony Bennett has been privately battling Alzheimer’s disease.
The diagnosis was shared in an depth feature about his health via the AARP.
Within the piece, it was revealed that one of the ways Bennett is coping is by re-teaming with Lady Gaga to record a follow-up to their 2014 album ‘Cheek To Cheek.’
The critically acclaimed set won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the GRAMMYs, spawned a sold-out tour, and added bountifully to the unique tapestry that is Gaga’s musical career.
Now, a new record and accompanying documentary chronicling its creation are incoming. Both of which will be particularly important in light of the 94-year-old’s diagnosis.
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Tony was a considerably more muted presence during the recording of the new album with Gaga. In raw documentary footage of the sessions, he speaks rarely, and when he does his words are halting; at times, he seems lost and bewildered. Gaga, clearly aware of his condition, keeps her utterances short and simple (as is recommended by experts in the disease when talking to Alzheimer’s patients). “You sound so good, Tony,” she tells him at one point. “Thanks,” is his one-word response. She says that she thinks “all the time” about their 2015 tour. Tony looks at her wordlessly. “Wasn’t that fun every night?” she prompts him. “Yeah,” he says, uncertainly. The pain and sadness in Gaga’s face is clear at such moments — but never more so than in an extraordinarily moving sequence in which Tony (a man she calls “an incredible mentor, and friend, and father figure”) sings a solo passage of a love song. Gaga looks on, from behind her mic, her smile breaking into a quiver, her eyes brimming, before she puts her hands over her face and sobs.
The new LP offers lush, gorgeous duets, with both singers in superb voice. But there is one duty, in connection with the record, that Tony is manifestly not able to perform: promotional interviews. (When I asked him, “Are you excited about the new record with Gaga?” he stared at me silently.) This has left those in charge of Tony’s life and career — chiefly Danny and Susan — in a quandary. Eager for as many ears as possible to hear and enjoy what may very well be the last Tony Bennett record, they have jointly decided to break the silence around his condition, a decision they have, necessarily, had to make without Tony’s input, since he is, Susan said, incapable of understanding the disease, let alone making momentous decisions about whether to publicly disclose it.
As modern careers go, few can come close to the levels of diverse Lady Gaga’s operates at. Like, from the pulsating Pop that was ‘Chromatica’ to this. Kudos.
We’ll be listening. Will you?