It is eight years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. It is six years since we have featured some of the music legends and delighted to showcase them again in 2022.
In the last series of 2022 we will be exploring the life and music of Tony Bennett one of the most accomplished showman of the last 100 years.
We left Tony Bennett at the end of the 1980s having re-established himself in the charts and on television. With his son as his manager and reunited with his musical director Ralph Sharon, Tony was heading into the 1990s back on track.
And certainly his first album Astoria: Portrait of the Artist in 1990 was a great way to start the new decade. Released by Columbia Records the album included some classic tracks as well as some less well known. Astoria was Tony Bennett’s birthplace and several of the songs had references to ‘home and old friends’ in the lyrics such as A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet, The Folks Who Live On The Hill, I’ve Come Home Again.
I think one of the tracks that sums up the previous two decades for Tony is I Was Lost, I Was Drifting!
To get us in the mood today here is Tony with one of the songs that he has performed in the years since this album… The Girl I Love composed and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. tonybennettVEVO
Following this album, Tony turned his attention to paying homage to some of the great artists of the industry and in 1992 he released Perfectly Frank as a tribute to Frank Sinatra. It reached Number #1 in the US jazz chart and also reached gold status and featured 24 tracks including Time After Time, Nancy, Night and Day, The Lady is a Tramp and another Gershwin number, A Foggy Day.
The following album in 1993 also did very well. A tribute to Fred Astaire, Steppin’ Out it was also Number #1 in the jazz chart and reached gold status and both these two albums won Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. This was clear evidence that the new direction that Tony was taking with his career was paying off. One of the tracks on Steppin’ Out is They Can’t Take That Away From Me by George and Ira Gershwin. Uploaded by Tony Bennett
Here is a quote from Tony Bennett which illustrates the tenacity and commitment to his career despite the setbacks.
“Number one, don’t quit. Number two, listen to number one!”
Tony was also appearing on MTV and television alongside the younger generation of music stars and here is what The New York Times had to say about Tony Bennett in the 1990s
“Tony Bennett has not just bridged the generation gap, he has demolished it. He has solidly connected with a younger crowd weaned on rock. And there have been no compromises.”
To capitalise on his MTV exposure, Tony released his next live album in 1994 – MTV Unplugged which did extremely well in the charts reaching #48 in the US charts, #1 in the jazz chart and #11 in the Australian charts. The album also went Platinum and won the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance Grammy for the third year in a row with the top Grammy for Album of the Year. Not only had Tony captured the hearts of the home audience but had re-established himself as an International star.
Tony also began collaborating with the younger generation of artists and in 1994 released the single Moonglow with K.D. Lang. tonybennettVEVO
Back in the studio the next album in 1995 was Here’s To The Ladies which featured the hits of singers such as Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. As with Tony’s previous albums of this decade, it did well in the charts. This was followed in 1997 with Tony Bennett On Holiday and in 1998 Tony Bennett – The Playground.
The last album of the 90s was Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool to celebrate the centenary of Duke Ellington’s birth. It reached #1 in the jazz charts and brought the decade to a wonderful finish.
As well as consistently releasing #1 albums, Tony Bennett did not neglect his legions of fans and he toured continuously with on average a staggering 100 shows a year. He also continued with regular television shows and appearances including a PBS special Tony Bennett’s Wonderful World: Live From San Francisco. He also created the concept of a series for A&E Network Live By Request series and he won an Emmy Award for his own first episode.
It was time for an autobiography and in 1998 Tony published The Good Life
Tony’s comeback ensured that he was now financially secure and despite now being 74 years old he had no intention of retiring. He said in reference to artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jack Benny and Fred Astaire:
“right up to the day they died, they were performing. If you are creative, you get busier as you get older.”
To end the story of the 90s here is It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) by Duke Ellington. Uploaded by Jack Miller
Buy the music of Tony Bennett: Amazon
Additional sources: Wikipedia
Next week Tony Bennett still going strong in his 90s.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
As always William would love to receive your feedback… thanks Sally.