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Tony Bennett Has Alzheimer's Disease

Singer Tony Bennett performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2007.
Jo Hale
/
Getty Images
Singer Tony Bennett performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2007.

The family of legendary singer Tony Bennett — a staple presence who introduced generations to the American songbook and pop standards — says he has Alzheimer's disease.

The announcement was made in a profile of Bennett published by AARP The Magazine on Monday; his wife, Susan Benedetto, says that he was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 2016. On Monday morning, Bennett's Twitter account posted a note in the singer's name, writing: "Life is a gift - even with Alzheimer's. Thank you to Susan and my family for their support, and AARP The Magazine for telling my story."

Benedetto also gave an interview to CBS This Morning on Monday, saying that Bennett is still able to rehearse twice a week at home, singing for an hour or so at a time.

Benedetto told AARP that the singer is often disoriented and sometimes doesn't recognize the utility of household objects such as forks or keys, but that he still recognizes family members.

Despite his battle, Bennett has recorded a new album of duets with Lady Gaga as a follow-up to their 2014 project, Cheek to Cheek. According to AARP, the new material was recorded "in widely spaced sessions" between 2018 and early last year and Gaga was aware of his disease while they were recording.

When the AARP journalist asked the singer in early November 2020 if he was excited about the project, however, Bennett "stared silently."

The family — chiefly his wife and his son, Danny, who has managed Bennett's career for the past 40 years (and who led the Verve record label between 2016 and 2019) — told AARP that they felt that with this new — and perhaps final — album scheduled for release this spring, it was time to disclose his condition.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.

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