The son of an Italian father and American mother, Bennett studied music and painting at the High School of Industrial Arts. He later became a talented artist, exhibiting under his real name in New York, Paris and London. Originally possessing a tenor voice that would deepen over the years, Bennett sang during service with the US Army's entertainment unit late in World War II. Upon his discharge he worked in clubs before joining a Pearl Bailey revue in Greenwich Village as singer and master of ceremonies under the name of Joe Bari, where he was spotted by Bob Hope, who engaged him to sing in his Paramount show and changed his name to Tony Bennett. In 1950 he successfully auditioned for Columbia Records' producer Mitch Miller, singing "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams", and a year later topped the US chart with "Because Of You" and "Cold, Cold Heart". Other 50s hits, mostly backed by the Percy Faith Orchestra, included "Rags To Riches", "Just In Time", "Stranger In Paradise" (from Kismet), and many others. In 1958, his album Basie Swings-Bennett Sings was a precursor to later jazz-based work. In 1962 he had his biggest hit with "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" (which won a Grammy Award) and a sell-out Carnegie Hall concert, which was recorded and released on a double-album set. Often quoted as being unable to find suitable new material, Bennett nevertheless made the 60s singles charts with contemporary songs such as "I Wanna Be Around", "The Good Life", "Who Can I Turn To" and "If I Ruled The World". In the 70s Bennett left Columbia Records and recorded for various labels including his own, and made albums with jazz musicians Ruby Braff and Bill Evans. He continued to gain excellent reviews at venues such as the Desert Inn, Las Vegas, and in 1991 celebrated 40 years in the business with a concert at London's Prince Edward Theatre. In 1993 and 1994 he was awarded Grammys for "Best Traditional Pop Performance' for his albums Perfectly Frank and Steppin" Out. Around the same time, Bennett was "discovered" by younger audiences following his appearances on the David Letterman Show, benefit shows hosted by "alternative rock" radio stations, and his Unplugged session on the US cable channel MTV. By the time he had gained two more Grammys and a World Music Award in 1995 for his MTV Unplugged, the album had spent 35 weeks at the top of the US Jazz chart. He received a second World Music Award for lifelong contribution to the music industry. His voice has ripened with age and he appears hip to a much wider and younger audience.

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