Tony Bennett died at the age of 96 on July 21, but he leaves behind a long legacy. Bennett was an iconic jazz and pop vocalist who rose to prominence in the 1950s and netted 19 Grammys during his lifetime. He was always a prolific collaborator, working with the likes of Amy Winehouse and Diana Krall. But in his later years, he worked extensively with his dear friend Lady Gaga.
Gaga has yet to publicly comment on Bennett’s death, but she honored him extensively throughout his life. The duo released two albums and a documentary together and were unwaveringly supportive of one another over the course of their decade-plus-long friendship. Ahead, learn more about their bond.
How Did Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Meet?
Gaga and Bennett first met at a Robin Hood Foundation charity gala in 2011. Bennett saw Gaga perform the jazz standard “Orange Colored Sky” from the audience, went backstage to meet her, and the rest was history. “We were fast friends — friends ever since [our first meeting],” Gaga told People in 2014. “Tony heard me sing it, and he asked to meet me after the show. And I said, ‘Oh my gosh! Tony Bennett’s here!'”
Bennett and Gaga then opened up about their first meeting in a joint interview with Parade in 2014. “It was the first time I heard Lady perform, and I could not believe the audience’s reaction,” Bennett said. “I went backstage, and she was there with her parents.” Gaga also fondly remembered the night. “I walked offstage sweating, and they said, ‘Mr. Tony Bennett wants to meet you.’ My father got all choked up, and my mother said, ‘Oh, I need to fix my hair!’ We all had champagne,” she said. “I was so happy to meet him.”
What Music Did Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Work on Together?
Apparently, the pair began discussing collaborations the moment they met. “I fixed my hair, and my mom was fixing her Makeup, and then we went back to meet him,” Gaga told People in 2014. “He said, ‘Do you want to do a jazz album together?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course I do!'”
The duo’s first joint project was a duet of the show tune “The Lady Is a Tramp”; it appeared on Bennett’s 2011 album “Duets II.” They followed that up with the 2014 album “Cheek to Cheek,” which won a Grammy in 2015 for best traditional pop vocal album. In 2021, they released another album called “Love For Sale,” which consisted of Cole Porter songs.
“It was a gift,” Gaga told USA Today that year of “Love For Sale.” “It’s a gift that I will hold in my heart ’til my last breath. My time with Tony has changed me forever. Frank Sinatra said he was the best singer in the world and I don’t think Frank lied.”
They performed at a wide variety of events over the years and played their last concerts together in August 2021 when Bennett was 95 years old. Those shows were later turned into a documentary called “One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.”
Inside Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s Supportive Friendship
Gaga has been open about how her relationship with Bennett changed her life, saving her during a time when she felt restricted by the pressures of being a pop star. In 2014, Gaga told Parade that at the time she met Bennett, she “didn’t even want to sing” anymore. “I tell Tony every day that he saved my life,” she said.
Gaga later elaborated on that in an interview with The Telegraph in 2014. “He has made me so happy in the way that I really needed to feel,” she said. “He’s really, like, saved my life. . . . ‘Cause I really love music, and I really love being a singer, but I really hate being put in a box. And when I get put in a box I get very like a wild animal. And he let me be free. And I get to be with him while I’m doing it, and he’s teaching me all these life lessons, and I’m singing music I’ve loved my whole life.”
The pair also deeply respected each other’s talent. “I just love what she did on this album,” Bennett told Parade of “Cheek to Cheek.” “She’s up there with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the greatest singer in the world.” Gaga had similar thoughts. “Working with Tony has reaffirmed everything I knew but that you start to forget when your life changes and it gets really noisy,” she told the outlet. “For Tony, it’s all about great music.”
She also shared that their friendship inspired Tattoos-45842113″ class=”ga-track” data-ga-category=”internal click” data-ga-label=”https://www.popsugar.com/beauty/Lady-Gaga-Tattoos-45842113″ data-ga-action=”body text link”>one of her tattoos. “I asked Tony to draw me a trumpet, and he sketched me Miles Davis’s trumpet. Then I had it tattooed with his last name, Benedetto, underneath,” she told People in 2014. “Just so I would always remember this time together.”
In 2016, Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and Gaga continued to be unfailingly supportive. In a 2021 interview with AARP Magazine, Bennett’s oldest son, Danny, said he even touched base with Gaga about Bennett’s decision to go public with his diagnosis. “I wanted to check with her to make sure she was cool,” he said, “because she watches his back all the time. She was like, ‘Absolutely, it’s just another gift that he can give to the world.'”
When Gaga and Bennett’s album “Love For Sale” received six Grammy nominations in 2021, Gaga honored Bennett and their enduring musical bond on Instagram. “Thank you to the public for loving us, we surely love each other, and you,” she wrote. “Believe in love and partnership, even with 60 years between us, and Alzheimer’s, there is nothing like the magic of music. I love you Tony, and the world loves you too. How could they not?”
That same year, Gaga told USA Today that while they were recording their final shows, Bennett showed her that he still remembered who she was. “I witnessed something in that man that let me know that he knew [me],” Gaga said. “He called me ‘sweetheart’ during rehearsals, but on our last night together, he said, ‘It’s Lady Gaga.’ That was the first time he had said my name in a long time. And he gave that gift to me. I know he dug deep to give me that gift and I’m really forever grateful.”
Bennett, for his part, paid tribute to Gaga for the last time on July 13, 2023, when he shared a video of the duo performing on Instagram. “Remembering the musical magic made in the studio with the remarkable Lady Gaga for our rendition of ‘Night and Day,'” the caption read.
Ahead, see photos of the pair’s friendship over the years.