I heard a voice from my past when I stumbled upon an interview on National Public Radio with the legendary singer Tony Bennett. It triggered many happy memories. I would know that voice anywhere—singing or telling a story—and it always makes me nostalgic. Bennett was a constant in my house growing up, as well as music from others of his generation, like Sinatra, Goulet and Como, to name but a few. My parents had a respectable collection of LPs under the turntable. This was the background music of my young life, and it stuck with me even as my tastes changed over the years.
I have a clear memory of my mother especially enjoying an iconic Bennett song called “I Wanna Be Around, ” which she’d sing with gusto. She loved his music so much that years later I was happy to surprise her with tickets to see Bennett in concert. I remember how much we enjoyed the show. I wish she’d lived long enough to experience his 2006 CD of duets with contemporary pop singers. He released this collection to coincide with his 80th birthday, entertaining yet another generation of music lovers.
So you can see why I experienced a “driveway moment” sitting in my car, listening to Bennett being interviewed on NPR regarding his memoir, Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett (2012). Bennett told Neal Conan, “I’d like to prove that if you take care of yourself, you can actually not regret the fact that you’ve become an old-timer, but you can just still improve and actually get better.”
Bennett’s zen seems to come from his never-quit attitude. He continues to practice singing scales every day. He considers himself a student as well as a teacher, always learning and tweaking.
There is little revealed in the memoir that hasn’t been told before, but I found it full of examples of how Bennett epitomizes successful aging. If you are anything like me and share a sense of connection to this accomplished artist and remarkable human being, here is my suggestion: grab a copy of this book, but on a Tony Bennett CD and enjoy reminiscing with this 88-year-old national treasure.
Pepper Evans works as an independent-living consultant, helping older adults age in place. She is the empty-nest mother of two adult daughters and has extensive personal and professional experience as a caregiver. She has worked as a researcher and editor for authors and filmmakers. She also puts her time and resources to use in the nonprofit sector and serves on the Board of Education in Lawrence Township, NJ.