One of America's foremost song stylists, Tony Bennett has enjoyed a career that began in the late 1930s and finds him still entertaining audiences well into the 21st century. Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens, on August 3, 1926, Bennett was a music fan from an early age. He began singing professionally when he was just 13 years old, working part-time as a singing waiter to help support his family after the death of his father.
In 1946, after serving in World War II, Bennett began studying singing at the American Theater Wing under the G.I. Bill and developed a strong vocal technique and a sense of phrasing that owed a debt of influence to a number of great jazz instrumentalists. In 1950, Bennett was signed to Columbia Records and scored the first in a series of hit records that would last into the mid-1960s.
In 1956, Bennett hosted a summer replacement television program, The Tony Bennett Show, and he was a frequent guest on the leading television variety shows of the day. Bennett made his acting debut in 1959 in a guest role on Danny Thomas' successful situation comedy Make Room for Daddy, and in 1963 he appeared in a five-episode story arc on the drama series 77 Sunset Strip. But his big-screen debut in the 1966 potboiler The Oscar convinced him that he wasn't cut out to be an actor, and it would be almost 30 years before he returned to the screen, playing a guest-starring role on the situation comedy Evening Shade.
As tastes in popular music changed in the 1960s, Bennett's career went into a slump that lasted until the end of the 1970s. But with his son Danny Bennett serving as his manager, he began making a remarkable comeback in the 1980s, recording a number of acclaimed theme albums, making frequent appearances on Late Night With David Letterman, voicing himself on a 1990 episode of The Simpsons, and making a 1994 appearance on MTV Unplugged that confirmed he'd once again broken through to the pop audience.
Bennett's music has been used in dozens of notable films and television shows, including The Last Picture Show, Goodfellas, JFK, Swingers, and My Best Friend's Wedding. He became the subject of a 2012 documentary, The Zen of Bennett, which chronicled the recording of his album Duets II.