Music

Tony Bennett made new album with Gaga after Alzheimer’s

NEW YORK– The family of Tony Bennett has revealed that the legendary US singer has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, breaking their silence on his condition four years after he was diagnosed.

His wife Susan told AARP Magazine in an interview published on Monday that the 94-year-old had been losing his ability to make decisions.

Despite the diagnosis in 2016, Bennett recorded a new album with US pop star Lady Gaga that is expected to be released later this year.

A follow-up to their 2014 collaboration Cheek To Cheek, it was recorded between 2018 and 2020. 

AARP magazine said raw documentary footage of the sessions showed Gaga at one point when Bennett, in good voice but at times seeming lost and bewildered, sang the solo passage of a love song.

“Gaga looks on, from behind her mic, her smile breaking into a quiver, her eyes brimming, before she puts her hands over her face and sobs,” the magazine said.

Aware of his condition, Gaga is shown speaking in short, simple phrases that Alzheimer’s researchers say are best for communicating with patients.

“You sound so good, Tony,” she says at one point, to which he replies “thanks”.

In one scene, Bennett is described as appearing “utterly mystified about his whereabouts” before going on stage.

“But the moment he heard the announcer’s voice boom ‘Ladies and gentlemen – Tony Bennett!’” he would transform into performance mode,” AARP reports.

Bennett remains upbeat but his condition is increasingly deteriorating.

“He would ask me, ‘What is Alzheimer’s?’ I would explain, but he wouldn’t get it,” his wife told AARP Magazine.
Dr Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, diagnosed Bennett in 2016.

She has strongly encouraged Bennett’s family to keep him singing and performing for as long as he can enjoy it.

The fatal disease causes a decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Bennett so far has been spared the disorientation that can sometimes prompt patients to wander from home or experience terror, rage or depression, the magazine article said.

“He might never develop these symptoms. But there was little doubt that the disease had progressed. Even his increasingly rare moments of clarity and awareness reveal the depths of his debility,” the magazine said. 

Bennett’s last public performance was March 11 last year in New Jersey, before the pandemic halted touring.
“This has been a real blow from a cognitive perspective,” said Dr Devi.

“His memory, prior to the pandemic, was so much better. And he’s not alone. So many of my patients are negatively affected by the isolation, the inability to do the things that matter to them.

“For someone like Tony Bennett, the big high he gets from performing was very important.” - REUTERS/AFP

 

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