Anthony Dominick “Tony” Benedetto (born August 3, 1926), better known by his stage name Tony Bennett, is an American singer of traditional pop standards, big band, show tunes, and jazz. He is also a painter, having created works under the name Anthony Benedetto that are on permanent public display in several institutions. He is the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.
Born and raised in Astoria to an Italian-American family, Bennett began singing at an early age. He fought in the final stages of World War II as a U.S. Army infantryman in the European Theater. Afterward, he developed his singing technique, signed with Columbia Records and had his first number-one popular song with “Because of You” in 1951. Several top hits such as “Rags to Riches” followed in the early 1950s. He then refined his approach to encompass jazz singing. He reached an artistic peak in the late 1950s with albums such as The Beat of My Heart and Basie Swings, Bennett Sings. In 1962, Bennett recorded his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. He has won 19 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented in 2001) and two Emmy Awards, and was named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Bennett has also had success as a painter, done under his real name of Anthony Benedetto or just Benedetto. He followed up his childhood interest with professional training, work, and museum visits throughout his life. He sketches or paints every day, often of views out of hotel windows when he is on tour.
He has exhibited his work in numerous galleries around the world. He was chosen as the official artist for the 2001 Kentucky Derby, and was commissioned by the United Nations to do two paintings, including one for its 50th anniversary. His painting “Homage to Hockney” (for his friend David Hockney, painted after Hockney drew him) is on permanent display at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. His “Boy on Sailboat, Sydney Bay” is in the permanent collection at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park in New York, as is his “Central Park” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. His paintings and drawings have been featured in ARTnews and other magazines, and sell for as much as $80,000 apiece. Many of his works were published in the art book Tony Bennett: What My Heart Has Seen in 1996. In 2007, another book involving his paintings, Tony Bennett in the Studio: A Life of Art & Music, became a best-seller among art books.