I’ve recently read David Evanier’s All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett, and it seems to me that it will stand as the essential written reference point for anyone interested in this great American singer’s life and music. Of-course, being about the only proper biography written of Bennett (excluding his 1998 autobio The Good Life in collaboration with music-writer Will Friedwald) it lacks obvious competition. Nevertheless, this book is no knockoff, but an assiduously researched work by a writer completely engaged with his subject matter. It is far from an official biography and proceeds with that freedom; the aggressively private Bennett himself did not grant an interview and neither did some figures whom one could rate as key intimates of the singer, but out of a number of in-depth conversations with those individuals who did grant interviews, and a thorough marshaling of what is already public record, David Evanier has constructed an estimably credible and robust account of Bennett’s life and career.
When it comes to books on major figures in the entertainment world, you often have a dichotomy between those which focus on the famous individual’s personal life versus those which look at their art and life’s work with an appreciative eye. Evanier combines both approaches here, and, in addition to being the best way, objectively-speaking, of approaching the task, in Bennett’s case it also must be seen as the absolutely obligatory way. There could be no way of telling Tony Bennett’s life story in a meaningful way without getting to grips with his passionate devotion to his chosen musical form, and the full range of struggles and successes he has experienced in that realm. Continue reading All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett by David Evanier→
“But who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don’t make a right,” and, “They flew the plane in, but we caused it. Because we were bombing them and they told us to stop.”
The obvious response to this is to say that Tony Bennett should stick to singing, and to talking about music. In those areas he’s pretty smart. In terms of politics, simply put, he’s always been a liberal wacko. When asked the kinds of questions Stern asked, Bennett is guaranteed to show his wackiness. He also said, maybe most absurdly of all, that President George W. Bush had confided in him at the White House that the war in Iraq had been “a mistake.” Continue reading Tony Bennett and the incoherence of pacifism→
Tony Bennett isn’t very well known for whispering. He’s a big singer—not in the sense that he over sings, but he certainly is known for the power to belt it out above muscular backing bands, and through his career he’s done plenty of that, and to good effect. And even in the plethora of latter day albums he made with the Ralph Sharon Trio, there’s a sense of grandeur to the backing that belies the actual simplicity of piano, bass and drums, and Tony often sings on those albums as if in front of a big orchestra. And that’s something in itself. But for true flat-out intimacy, there’s nothing he’s ever done that exceeds the Rodgers and Hart Songbook.
In 1973, Bennett saw trumpeter Ruby Braff and guitarist George Barnes leading a quartet in New York, with Wayne Wright on another guitar and John Giuffrida on bass. He sat in with them live, it went well, and one thing led to another. They went into the studio and over the course of a few days recorded twenty songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Continue reading Tony Bennett Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook→
After playing Tony Bennett’s record, Rags To Riches, on his XM radio show, Bob Dylan said, “I heard a story once about Tony. They wanted him to sing the national anthem at the nineteen and sixty-one Preakness. He didn’t want to. He said, ‘I don’t know. Bombs burstin’ in air are just not my thing.’” Dylan commented, “Way to go, Tony.”
That’s not exactly the comment I’d have made, but then it’s Bob’s show, and when I have my own XM Radio show, maybe I’ll pay a different kind of tribute to Tony — who I do think is one of the greatest singers of our era.