It was the middle of November in 2008. I had just started high school. My mom called me and my brother one day. She asked us if we were at all interested in attending a Tony Bennett concert.
"Are you kidding me!? Of course we wanna go," I told her without a second thought.
She'd been testing the waters, unsure if we would actually be into watching a singer who was so far past our generation that most kids our age had never even heard of him. We couldn't wait to go.
On July 21, 2023, acclaimed American jazz crooner Tony Bennett passed away. He was 96 years old and was a few weeks away from 97.
Despite his old age, he continued to perform live during his golden years, having put on his final performance at the ripe old age of 95.
I had the pleasure of seeing him live once and it was one of the most memorable music experiences I've ever had. This was partly because I was probably one of the youngest people who attended the concert back then.
A tribute to Tony Bennett from an unlikely fan.
As a young child, my tastes in music were about on par with other kids my age. I had a big Britney Spears phase during what is now her highly problematic pop star era before I moved on to the moody rock stylings of Linkin Park and songs from my favorite anime that I didn't understand at the time. But in between, I found myself deeply invested in old American jazz.
My parents would put on classics from Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie, Ella Fitzgerald, only a little Sinatra, and of course, Tony Bennett. Those CDs played on repeat on car rides and lazy afternoons. To my parents' surprise, I grew to love the emotional swings and dips that these singers of yesteryear had to offer, especially when it came to Tony.
I don't know what drew me to him, but there was something delightfully soothing in his voice that got me hooked on it from a very young age.
My parents were equally surprised to hear that my twin brother and I were interested in seeing him live. They bought tickets right away once we told them how ecstatic we were at the prospect.
The concert took place in early December of 2008. He was 81 at the time. I was just 15.
One of the fondest memories I have was when we were first taking our seats. My brother and I happened to sit separately from our parents, so it looked like we were on our own. An elderly woman rolled up next to us in her wheelchair and spotted us. We must have been easy to pick out, considering that the rest of the audience were middle-aged at the youngest.
"Do you know who's playing right now?" she asked incredulously.
"Of course we do," we replied. "Tony's a legend!"
The woman was over the moon to hear that.
Of course, the other fondest memory was of the concert itself. One would not believe that an 81-year-old man could sing and dance the way Tony did that night.
He did all of his hits. "My Favorite Things," "Watch What Happens," and of course, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." His performance could have been ripped straight from the CDs that I wore out with my parents over the years. And the man stepped and spun in ways that made all of his elderly fans (and me) gasp in awe.
Tony put on the kind of concert where you could tell that song and dance was etched into his bones. Even at his old age, there was nothing stopping him from giving a fantastic and jaw-dropping performance that literally reached across generations to touch my heart. To this day, I still have the ticket from that night and have kept it safe for all these years.
News of his passing hit me and my brother hard. I thought back to that night and how much joy he brought us. I thought of our dearly departed mother Maria, who introduced us to his music so early on and gave us an undying love for jazz that helped us grow closer as a family.
Tony Bennett gave me more than he ever could have realized, with my appreciation for him having been solidified on that chilly December evening.
Rest in peace, Tony. And thank you for a lovely evening.