Condolences immediately began to pour through social media upon the news that Tony Bennett has passed away, with many celebrating a life well lived and a flourishing career that spanned decades. Bennett’s long and winding path to finding success almost feels like the stuff of fiction, having been born and raised in New York City to Italian immigrants in 1926, living through the worst of the Great Depression, and even picking up singing during his early teens, before ultimately getting drafted into the US Army near the end of World War II. Upon his discharge, Bennett — who was originally born Anthony Dominick Benedetto — found his lifelong stage name thanks to crossing paths with the legendary comedian Bob Hope in 1949, who dubbed him Tony Bennett so his name would fit on the marquee. (According to the AP, the singer recounted this story in his 1998 autobiography, “The Good Life.”)
From there, Bennett steadily found more and more success as his profile grew and he consistently found his songs hitting the top of the charts throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, the peerless talent never wavered in his support of the Civil Rights movement at the time, either, as he actively participated in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The following decade presented a wealth of challenges, however, from scuffles with his own recording studio of Columbia Records to failed marriages to waning popularity as a result of changing tastes and music styles spearheaded by younger artists. Beset by mounting debt and even a serious drug overdose in 1979, Bennett turned his career and his life around through the help of his son Danny — who would eventually become his manager.
Tony Bennet’s passing truly marks the end of an era.