Tony Bennett: The Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize For Popular Song
Airs Friday, July 19, 2019 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2
—A tribute to Tony Bennett, with Michael Bublé, Wé McDonald, Bruce Willis and more—
The event, taped on Nov. 15, 2017 at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., features performances by Bennett, as well as Chris Botti, Michael Bublé, Gloria Estefan, Michael Feinstein, Savion Glover, Josh Groban, Wé McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Vanessa Williams, 2009 Gershwin Prize honoree Stevie Wonder and a special presentation by Wynton Marsalis.
Bruce Willis is host. During the event, Bennett was presented the Gershwin Prize by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, and a delegation of Members of Congress.
Bennett and the other performing artists will be joined by a house band led by Gregg Field (Music Director/Drums), and including Shelly Berg (Piano), Nathan East (Bass), Edwin Bonilla (Percussion), Dean Parks (Guitar), Randy Waldman (Keys), Aaron Broadus (Trumpet/Flugelhorn), Fred Irby, III (Trumpet/Flugelhorn), Joe Jackson (Trombone), Brent Birckhead (Alto Saxophone/Flute/Alto Flute) and Scott Silbert (Tenor Saxophone/Flute/Alto Flute).
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is named in honor of the legendary songwriting team George and Ira Gershwin.
The prize is given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.
Bennett is an artist for all ages whose interpretations and re-interpretations have introduced new generations to the Great American Songbook.
“WETA is proud to bring this year’s special performance honoring Tony Bennett to the American people in collaboration with the Library of Congress,” noted Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA Washington, D.C. “Sharing these special musical events with the wide public television audience across this country is our continuing honor.”
“Tony Bennett’s extraordinary career has left an indelible mark on music and culture in America,” said Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “As part of our commitment to present the best of the arts to the American public, PBS and our member stations are honored to recognize Tony’s contributions and share his cultural legacy.”
“CPB is pleased to support this program, celebrating and sharing with all Americans Tony Bennett’s enduring musical legacy,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Broadcast of the Gershwin Prize is part of public media’s mission to provide high-quality content that educates, informs, engages, and inspires audiences of all generations.”
“Tony Bennett is one of the most accomplished and beloved artists of our time,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “His staying power is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Great American Songbook the Gershwins helped write, and his ability to collaborate with new generations of music icons has been a gift to music lovers of all ages.”
Tony Bennett's Life and Accomplishments:
Bennett is one of a handful of artists to have new albums charting in seven consecutive decades, beginning in the 1950s through the 2010s.
He celebrated his 90th birthday on August 3, and the milestone was highlighted with the broadcast of a television special, the release of a new CD and book, and the lighting of the Empire State Building honoring his musical legacy.
No one in American popular music has recorded for so long and at such a high level of excellence as Tony Bennett.
His initial successes came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950s, including such chart-toppers as “Because of You,” “Rags to Riches” and a remake of Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart.”
He has had 24 songs in the Top 40, including “I Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life,” “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” and his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which garnered two GRAMMY Awards.
In the last 10 years alone, Bennett has sold 10 million records. He has received 19 GRAMMY Awards, including a 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award and a 1995 GRAMMY for Album of the Year for his MTV Unplugged, which introduced him to a whole new generation.
Later, his 2006 “Duets: An American Classic” was released, featuring performances with Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bono and others, winning three GRAMMY Awards and going on to be one of the best-selling CDs of the year and of Bennett’s career.
The follow-up, the 2011 “Duets II,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, making Bennett the oldest artist — at the age of 85 — to achieve this in the history of recorded music.
He broke this record three years later with his 2014 collaboration with Lady Gaga, "Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek," which also debuted at No. 1 when he was 88.
Bennett was born in 1926 in Queens, New York. His father died when he was 10 years old and his mother, Anna, raised Tony and his older brother and sister, John and Mary.
Bennett attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he nurtured his two passions, singing and painting. From the radio, he developed a love of music listening to Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and James Durante.
Bennett is also a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and participated in the liberation of a concentration camp.
He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma to support civil rights. He has performed for 11 U.S. presidents. The United Nations has named him a Citizen of the World as one of its foremost ambassadors.
Past Recipients of the Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize:
From June 2007 to the most recent broadcast in February 2017, these events have honored the musical genius of Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, and Smokey Robinson.
A co-production of WETA Washington, D.C., Bounce AEG and The Library of Congress. The executive producers are Dalton Delan, Carla Hayden and Michael Strunsky. The producers are Bounce’s Tim Swift, Kristi Foley and, for the Library of Congress, Susan H. Vita. The director is Leon Knoles. The music director is Gregg Field.
“Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is made possible through the generous support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, and public television viewers. Funding is also provided by The James Madison Council of the Library of Congress, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund, and The Leonore S. Gershwin Trust for the benefit of The Library of Congress Trust Fund Board.