Tony Bennett is one of the most recognized voices of any generation, with more than 60 years of music history under his belt.
Performing is an art he embraced as a young child in New York City. He's mastered the forms of popular music, jazz, show tunes and American songbook standards like nobody else before him or since.
His signature tunes include "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "Because of You," "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)," "Wanna Be Around," "The Good Life," "The Best Is Yet To Come," (popular in '62 and re-recorded with Diana Krall in 2006), "Rags To Riches" (made popular again nearly 40 years after its initial release by the 1990 movie "Goodfellas"), "Blue Velvet" (his version - the original - was a hit in 1951) and many others.
He's as relevant today as he's ever been: His first No. 1 Billboard 200 album chart debut actually happened last year with his "Duets II" release.
And that's after more than 70 albums before it. Bennett also is the oldest living musician to achieve the honor.
He recently participated in a Q&A with the Tulsa World and discussed his live shows, his signature tunes and why they keep him touring, retirement and what he means when he says "I have never worked a day in my life," and how his high school music teacher set his career path.
Q: What can fans expect at this concert? Do your shows feature songs going back to your earliest days?
A: I have always loved to perform for the public - a love which began when I used to perform for my family on Sundays when they would all gather at our house in Queens and my brother, sister and I would entertain everyone. From that point on, I knew that being an entertainer is what I wanted to do. I am very fortunate because I have a magnificent jazz quartet who perform with me in concert, and I love working with jazz musicians because they love spontaneity. It keeps each show very in the moment, and we can change things around right on stage during the show.
Q: What song that you perform live makes you the most emotional while you sing it, and why?
A: That's a very hard question to answer. In some ways my signature song would be the one I would choose because the audiences internationally love that song and it truly made me a "citizen of the world," and I have been commissioned around the globe to perform just because of that song.
Q: You've been an active performer since the late 1940s, and you've sold more than 50 million albums (and released more than 70 albums!). Back in 2001, you won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Do you ever see yourself retiring?
A: I get asked about if I plan on retiring, and usually I respond, "Retire to what? I am doing what I love most in life right now." Honestly, since I love performing, I truly feel I have never worked a day in my life.
Q: What has changed the most in the music industry since you started? What do you think is most different about "now" as opposed to "then"?
A: For young performers, I think what has changed most is that they don't have a chance to "be bad, before they get good." With the Internet and stadium tours, the minute an artist has a bit of success they are immediately put in front of millions of viewers on TV and online and then when they tour they get pushed into big stadium tours, and I think this puts a lot of pressure on a young artist.
Q: Your third duets album, "Viva Duets" is due out in October and includes performances in three languages with artists from eight countries and three continents. What inspired this third album? Who's on it? Where was the most exotic locale for you to record?
A: I have always loved Latin music, and on the first two duet projects I had performed with Juanes and Alejandro Sanz. We loved those tracks so much that my son and manager, Danny, came up with the idea of doing an entire duets project, and we got a fantastic response from singers around the world. I loved working in the studio with Marc Anthony and Gloria Estefan, both of whom I have known for years, and got to meet for the first time some very talented singers such as Romeo Santos, Juan Luis Guerra, Thalia, Maria Gadu, Chayenne. The most exotic locale was in Guadalajara, Mexico, where we flew to record with Vicente Fernandez, who is a legend in the Latin world. We recorded in his studio on his 400 acre ranch, which was magnificent, and he has horses, llamas and an incredible array of animals on the property - it was unforgettable.
Q: You've helped create the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts high school in Queens that has one of the highest graduation rates in the country (96 percent, with 97 percent enrolling in college). Obviously you believe in the value of the arts. How did they impact your life when you were in school?
A: Tremendously, as I had a love for both music and art so was studying both art forms during my public school education in New York City. In fact, at one point I thought I might just concentrate on art only, and I went to my music teacher and asked him what he thought, and he told me that he encouraged me not to give up music. I was always grateful to him for that!
Q: You've dueted with some of the biggest women in music, from Lady Gaga to Carrie Underwood to Amy Winehouse. Who's left? What female singer would you still most like to work with, and why?
A: I love working with my daughter Antonia; she tours with me now, and every night we do a duet on stage. I love the fact that she is on the road with me, and she is a terrific jazz singer.
When: Doors open 7 p.m., showtime 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, 777 W. Cherokee Street, Catoosa
Tickets: $65, $70 and $80, available at tulsaworld.com/ hardrockcasino, the venue box office or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
NOTE: All guests must be at least 21 years old.
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