The arrival of the Beatles in the US in 1964 may have started the British Invasion, but it also was a career extinction event for many pop vocalists. Artists who had been hitting the charts regularly found themselves shut out from the Hot 100 and became dependent on radio stations that were still following an Easy Listening format. One of the few artists who successfully kept their careers going after 1964 was Tony Bennett.
Tony was a true member of the greatest generation. He spent his childhood growing up during the Great Depression and was drafted into the infantry during World War II. After his return from the War, he took advantage of the GI Bill to study singing at the American Theater Wing. He made a few recordings in the late forties, but they failed to attract much attention.
Warning: a name-dropping paragraph follows. Pearl Bailey heard Tony performing and was impressed enough to invite him to open for one of her shows in Greenwich Village. She also invited Bob Hope to come to listen to the show, and Bob hired Tony to sing for him on tour. Mitch Miller then signed Tony to a contract with Columbia Records and produced Tony singing on a Percy Faith arrangement of Because Of You.
The result was Tony’s first charting record. The record hit number one in 1951 and sold over a million copies. Tony continued singing ballads and jazz-infused songs and not rock and roll and had hits on both the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart for over a dozen years. The hits eventually started winding down in 1964. At the end of that year he barely reached #33 on the Hot 100 with his version of Who Can I Turn To (When You Turn Away). His next single only reached #34 in 1965 and that was his last visit to the Hot 100 top forty.
Fortunately, he was able to continue placing top forty records on the AC chart as recently as 2006, and his albums continue to sell well.
Tony appeared on American Idol season six and mentored the singers one week. The results were impressive enough that none of the contestants were removed from the competition that week. He still continues to appear on television and in concerts.
His last recorded solo album came in 2013. He recorded an album with Diana Krall in 2018, and his catalog of music is still in demand.