Over 80 years after he first hit the charts with Polka Dots and Moonbeams in 1940, Sinatra remains venerated by fans young and old. Nobody ever came close to doing it ‘his way’, but even at the height of his fame and success, the star was always very clear about who he thought the greatest of all time was. He said it more than once, and he said it loud and clear. Ole’ Blue Eyes held jazz icon Tony Bennett above all others, and paid some powerful and deeply moving tributes to a man he deeply admired, but also called his close friend. And today, stars like Robert DeNiro and Stevie Wonder have posted beautiful video messages to him, including a fabulous musical number. SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE BIRTHDAY TRIBUTES.
The world lost Sinatra in 1998 at the age of 82. Incredibly, today we are celebrating the 96th birthday of his dear friend and the man whose voice and talent he idolised above all others.
The crooner, also known as the Chairman of the Board, once said: “For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.”
Sinatra even gave his pal one of the the biggest introductions ever on stage.
He introduced his friend with the ringing and immortal words: “Tony’s gonna come out now and he’s gonna tear the seats outta this place for you.
“He’s my man, this cat. He’s the greatest singer in the world today., this man, Mr Tony Bennett!
“I said it publicly in the paper and I’m gonna say it again, he’s the greatest thing in the world today.”
Praise doesn’t come higher than that, but Sinatra, for all the reports and rumours of Mob connections and ego, was always deeply loyal to his friends, his “pack.”
Bennett returned the praise, once revealing he had been inspired to a career in show business after he saw Sinatra live on stage when he was just 12 years old.
In the early days of his own career when he began to have some chart success, a young and nervous Bennett was encouraged and helped by the older star when he started to perform before larger crowds. It was a daunting change after humble beginnings as a singing waiter in local Italian restaurants.
Bennett said: “Sinatra taught me, the audience are your friends, they come to see you. And he changed my whole psychology about, there’s no such thing as a bad audience. There’s a bad performance, but there’s not a bad audience.”
Throughout his life, even as he became a star in his own right and one who was frequently lauded for his musicality and craft, Bennett continued to be amazed by their strong and enduring friendship.
He said: “I was his favourite and he was my favourite and I couldn’t get over it because he was a phenomenal artist, a beautiful singer and a great person.”
Decades later, some of the biggest stars in the entertainment business paid tribute to Bennett today, including Robert DeNiro.
Stevie Wonder revealed as a teenager he was inspired by the star singing If I Ruled The World.”There was such hope in his voice, it made me feel the same way. So much so that it has inspired me to be in that same place as Tony. I hope that both of our dreams come true. I love you Tony, you know that.”
His family and famous friends have also paid tribute to Bennett’s battle with Alzheimer’s, with his wife Susan revealing his condition is deteriorating but he still recognises his family.