Tony Bennett

Anthony Dominick Benedetto (born August 3, 1926), known professionally as Tony Bennett, is an American singer of traditional pop standards, big band, show tunes, and jazz. He is also a painter, and the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.

Born and raised in Astoria to an Italian-American family, Bennett began singing at an early age. He fought in the final stages of World War II as a U.S. Army infantryman in the European Theater.

Medic has obtained the official military personnel files of Tony Bennett from the National Archives. Nearly all the documents (File 1, File 2, File 3, File 4, File 5) are fragments or are fire damaged (except for File 6), possibly from the 1973 St. Louis fire which consumed millions of military records.

Benedetto was drafted into the Army in November 1944, during the final  stages of World War II. A Southern sergeant who disliked the Italian from New York City punished him with heavy doses of KP or BAR cleaning. In January 1945, Benedetto was assigned to the 255th Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Infantry Division, a unit filling in for the heavy losses suffered in the Battle of the Bulge. The 255th moved across France, and later, into Germany. In March 1945 Benedetto entered the front line and what he would later describe as a “front-row seat in hell.”

As the German Army was pushed back to its homeland, the 255th saw bitter fighting in cold winter conditions, often hunkering down in foxholes as German 88 mm guns fired on them. At the end of March, the unit crossed the Rhine and entered Germany, engaging in dangerous house-to-house, town-after-town fighting to clear out German soldiers. During the first week of April, they crossed the Kocher River, and by the end of the month reached the Danube.

During his time in combat, Benedetto narrowly escaped death several times. The experience made him a pacifist; he would later write, “Anybody who thinks that war is romantic obviously hasn’t gone through one,”and would later say, “It was a nightmare that’s permanent. I just said, ‘This is not life. This is not life.'” At the war’s conclusion Benedetto was involved in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp near Landsberg, where some American prisoners of war from the 63rd Division had also been held.

Benedetto stayed in Germany as part of the occupying force, but was assigned to an informal Special Services band that would entertain nearby American troops. His dining with a black friend from high school – at a time when the Army was still racially segregated – led to his being demoted and reassigned to Graves Registration Service duties. Given the duties involved-recovering and restoring the remains of the dead, who were often horribly maimed-this was a severe punishment.

Subsequently, he sang with the 314th Army Special Services Band under the stage name Joe Bari (a name he had started using before the war, chosen after the city and province in Italy and as a partial anagram of his family origins in Calabria). He played with many musicians who would have post-war careers.

Afterward, Tony Bennett, as he became known, developed his singing technique, signed with Columbia Records and had his first number-one popular song with “Because of You” in 1951. Several top hits such as “Rags to Riches” followed in early 1953. He then refined his approach to encompass jazz singing. He reached an artistic peak in the late 1950s with albums such as The Beat of My Heart and Basie Swings, Bennett Sings. In 1962, Bennett recorded his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. His career and his personal life experienced an extended downturn during the height of the rock music era.

Bennett staged a comeback in the late 1980s and 1990s, putting out gold record albums again and expanding his reach to the MTV Generation while keeping his musical style intact. He remains a popular and critically praised recording artist and concert performer. He has won 19 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented in 2001) and two Emmy Awards, and was named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. Bennett has sold over 50 million records worldwide.

Bennett also sketches or paints every day, often of views out of hotel windows when he is on tour.

He has exhibited his work in numerous galleries around the world. His paintings and drawings-signed with his real name or simply Benedetto-have been featured in ARTnews and other magazines, and sell for as much as $80,000 apiece. Pictured here is “Central Park” which is in the permanent collection of the Smithstonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

source: wikipedia