Tony Bennett rang in 90 this year and has spent roughly 70 years in show business. But the biggest thing he’s ever done? Well, it’s yet to come.
Hitting screens Dec. 20 is a two-hour special on NBC entitled, “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90” ― a tribute from the “music industry’s most prominent artists” to Bennett’s legacy. The segment will feature greats like Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Elton John, k.d. lang, Stevie Wonder and others.
“When someone reaches 90, everyone loves them,” Bennett said in an appearance at New York City’s Paley Center for Media on Wednesday night, “But this [special] is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.”
Bennett participated in a chat with his son, producer Danny Bennett, and NBC’s Lester Holt to promote the segment.
The singer shared some fun facts from his illustrious career and what he wants others just starting out to know:
On what he wish he knew when he first started:
I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made in my career ... When I first started out I had a couple of big records like “Because of You” and “Cold, Cold Heart” that sold millions, but when [I met George Burns and Jack Benny they] told me, it’s going to take you about nine years to learn your profession. I can’t believe how accurate they were. There’s so many mistakes you make until you learn what not to do and what to leave out when you’re on the stage. It really took nine years for me to learn that I was a competent performer.
On his biggest influences:
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, and Nat King Cole.
On recording live:
You have to be honest if you perform. I learned that from Bing Crosby. He was the most honest singer I’ve ever heard. He was very natural ... He made the public fall in love with the United States [by singing “God Bless America”].
In a Q&A after the discussion, the “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” crooner responded to questions pertaining to both the Battle of the Bulge and Beyoncé.
“I’d like to do something with her,” he said of the “Formation” singer. Bennett has said before he hopes to one day work with Queen Bey (which clearly needs to happen). Later, he talked about his experience serving in WWII, telling Holt, “I couldn’t wait to leave.”
The winner of 19 Grammys repeatedly said that he loves being an entertainer and has no plans of ever retiring.
“I love the public and they’ve never let me down,” he said.
Tune in to “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90” on NBC at 9 p.m. EST Dec. 20.