Tony Bennett opened up about his battle with Alzheimer’s on AARP.com. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia on people with age. It’s characterized by memory loss, and ends up leaving the person very dependent on caregivers.
Tony was first diagnosed with the disease back in 2016, and while it has certainly progressed, he hasn’t experienced the disorientation that can prompt patients to wonder from home as well as episodes of rage, terror, and depression.
On the same occasion, he also talked about an upcoming project with Lady Gaga, scheduled for this upcoming Spring. The new Jazz album will feature songs recorded from 2018 to 2020.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Before his illness, Tony was known as a meticulous and hard-driving perfectionist in the studio. The 2012 documentary The Zen of Bennett (shot three years before the onset of any symptoms) includes an electrifying moment when Tony, working to calm a nervous Amy Winehouse during their duet on “Body and Soul,” snaps at producer Phil Ramone, who has dared to intervene on the studio mic: “No — stay out of it! Let she and I work it out.” In another sequence, he snaps at his music arranger-piano player, Lee Musiker, for using too fast a tempo on “The Way You Look Tonight,” which they are rehearsing for a duet with Faith Hill. “It can't be a throwaway,” Tony says. “I wanna do a definitive version of this song!"
But Tony was a considerably more muted presence during the recording of the new album with Gaga. In raw documentary footage of the sessions, he speaks rarely, and when he does his words are halting; at times, he seems lost and bewildered. Gaga, clearly aware of his condition, keeps her utterances short and simple (as is recommended by experts in the disease when talking to Alzheimer's patients). “You sound so good, Tony,” she tells him at one point. “Thanks,” is his one-word response. She says that she thinks “all the time” about their 2015 tour. Tony looks at her wordlessly. “Wasn't that fun every night?” she prompts him. “Yeah,” he says, uncertainly. The pain and sadness in Gaga's face is clear at such moments — but never more so than in an extraordinarily moving sequence in which Tony (a man she calls “an incredible mentor, and friend, and father figure") sings a 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 new LP offers lush, gorgeous duets, with both singers in superb voice. But there is one duty, in connection with the record, that Tony is manifestly not able to perform: promotional interviews. (When I asked him, “Are you excited about the new record with Gaga?” he stared at me silently.) This has left those in charge of Tony's life and career — chiefly Danny and Susan — in a quandary. Eager for as many ears as possible to hear and enjoy what may very well be the last Tony Bennett record, they have jointly decided to break the silence around his condition, a decision they have, necessarily, had to make without Tony's input, since he is, Susan said, incapable of understanding the disease, let alone making momentous decisions about whether to publicly disclose it.
We would like to send all our love and support to Tony Bennett and his family.