It was a sad day for those who have an appreciation for music and the master of the art that made it so very enjoyable. Tony Bennett passed away today at the age of 96. To say that he was a legend still doesn’t do justice to his amazing talent. While he suffered and succumbed to Alzheimer’s he still could in his final years remember songs, notes and deliver a song catalog that went on to infinity.

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

It was amazing to see him perform, and it was thrilling to meet him.

The first time I met Tony Bennett was at the opening of the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. It was 1987 or 1988, I was with the NBC network at the time, and I got a table in the front row. It was a beautiful small room with tables and cocktail service. I was on a date with a lady friend that I had been seeing for three months.

Tony comes out and he’s literally 5 feet away. He sings a few of his classics, stops and points down to us at the table and says that we make a handsome couple and asks me “is that your wife? She’s beautiful.” I say no but explain that we’ve been dating. We have a great banter that gets the crowd laughing, then Tony dedicates the song Chicago to us. He takes a break and comes over to our table and thanks us for coming to the show and we have a great conversation that lasted about 15  minutes. I felt like I had known him for years. He finished the show, and I went back for his second night at the hotel. It’s a show that I’ll never forget.

The next time I saw Tony Bennett, I opened a show that he did many years ago at The PNC Bank Center, it was then the Garden State Arts Center, I went early because I thought I could catch him at soundcheck. He was doing a soundcheck and coming off the stage and I had the opportunity and told him about that meeting years ago in Chicago and how grateful I was.

He was so gracious and wanted to know about my radio station and as he talked with you, he would look you right in the eyes with a very sincere look. He had a great show at The Garden State Arts Center, and I would go on and see him perform at other venues for years.

Tony Bennett, left, and Lady Gaga appear at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in 2015
Tony Bennett, left, and Lady Gaga appear at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in 2015 (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Lady Gaga, believe it or not, is a music historian and a tremendous student of music theory and had a successful partnership with Tony Bennett because of their mutual respect and knowledge of song. I think Tony brought the best out of Lady Gaga and Tony truly enjoyed the collaboration. I have heard other duets with him and with other artists, but Lady Gaga’s stands out. I have developed a new appreciation for Lady Gaga because of that talent.

His voice was pure, his pitch was perfect, and he sang every song with the passion and conviction that it deserved. I was a big fan. I will miss his presence but thrilled that his music will always live on.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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