Happy Birthday, Tony Bennett!

Tony Bennett, our cover star from the Winter 2012 issue of Zoomer magazine, turns 87 today. He was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926 in New York, and his musical career spans several decades and genres including pop standards, show tunes and jazz. He is revered for his smooth, musical delivery, with his first number one hit ‘Because of You’ released in 1951. But his most well-known, signature song is the classic, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco.’

Singing has long been a family affair. His father, Giovanni Benedetto, who left Italy in 1906 to immigrate to New York, was also known to have quite the voice. “The legend from all my relatives was that he used to stand at the top of the mountain in Podargoni and the whole valley would hear him sing,” Bennett told Reuters.

Growing up poor in Astoria, New York, he started out as a singing waiter, and following his service in the US army, returned to the states to begin vocal training. One of his earliest gigs was working for Bob Hope who advised him to take on the name Tony Bennett and put him on his road show.

Signed to Columbia Records in 1950, his early hits included ‘Rag to Riches,’ ‘Because of You,’ and ‘Strangers in the Night.’ But his career success was marred by his increasing addiction problem. This and the fact that rock music was quickly dominating the airwaves and winning over the younger market pushed Bennett to an all time low. After a near death experience he started cleaning up his life, and hitting the road once more.

He credits his son Danny for helping to breath new life into his career during the 1990s. Danny helped secured guest appearances on TV, and the MTV Unplugged special that subsequently won Bennett a whole new era of young fans.

In 2006 he released the highly successfully, ‘Tony Bennett: Duets – An American Classic’ that featured stars like Barbra Streisand, Elton John, and Elvis Costello.  In 2011 he debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts for the first time in his career. The album, ‘Duets II,’ saw him pairing off with the likes of Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse. But perhaps a more recent duet proved his happiest yet: Bennett travelled to Italy with a small band and one very special guest–his daughter Antonia, 38. The father and daughter sang several duets for fans.

In addition to music, Bennett is also an accomplished painter and his works are on display in various institutions across the United States.