Tony Bennett

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

After the 1989 SF earthquake, two friends and I and hundreds of other people walked to the middle of the Bay Bridge from the Berkeley/Oakland side. We met hundreds of other people who had walked from the San Francisco side and met us in the middle, where Tony Bennett sang to us, I Left My Heart in San Francisco. This was the re-opening celebration after the bridge was damaged, before the cars were allowed back on it. Twenty-two years later Bennett is 85 years old and miraculously still singing beautifully, almost certainly because he trained his voice in opera when he was young. Opera singers learn how to take care of their voices. In his recent duet recordings with Lady Gaga and Amy Whitehouse he hits the high notes with no trouble at all.

Tony Bennett sings popular music, standards from the 1930s, show tunes, and jazz. He's won 15 Grammy awards and two Emmy awards, sold over 50 million records. His first big hit was Because of You in 1951. Some other hits include Cold, Cold Heart, Blue Velvet, Rags to Riches, Stranger in Paradise, What is This Thing Called Love? and Chicago. He sang with the Count Basie Orchestra, Bill Evans, and on the Johnny Carson show on its first night. He's kept up with younger audiences, appearing on MTV Unplugged and with rock and country stars Elvis Costello and k.d. lang. His other honors and accomplishments would fill 100 blogs. Tony Bennett is also an accomplished painter.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army in November 1944, joining the front lines and what he described as a "front-row seat in hell." He saw bitter fighting in cold winter conditions, often hunkering down in foxholes and being fired on by German 88 mm guns. He narrowly escaped death several times. The experience made him a pacifist; "Anybody who thinks that war is romantic obviously hasn't gone through one." At the end of the war he was involved in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp.

He participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches and refused to perform in apartheid South Africa.

In September 2011, Bennett named American military actions in the Middle East as the root cause of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He also claimed former President George W. Bush personally told him he felt he had made a mistake invading Iraq. After bad press resulting from these remarks, he clarified his position: "There is simply no excuse for terrorism and the murder of the nearly 3,000 innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks on our country. My life experiences, ranging from the Battle of the Bulge to marching with Martin Luther King, made me a life-long humanist and pacifist, and reinforced my belief that violence begets violence and that war is the lowest form of human behavior."

I guess Tony Bennett's Enneagram type to be a Peace Seeker, not only because of his peaceful and humanitarian stances and his dream of a positive world. He also expresses his personality in a laid back style, the style of a crooner. When I've seen him interviewed, he seems calm, yet passionate. His positive outlook on life and his fervent wish for us to go after the values he thinks are important seem to propel him to say exactly what he's feeling-in words and music.


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