Tony Bennett and his family announced Monday that he has been living with Alzheimer’s disease for the past four years.
In an extensive story published by AARP magazine, the 94-year-old said he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016. “There’s a lot about him that I miss,” his wife Susan Crow said. “Because he’s not the old Tony anymore. But when he sings, he’s the old Tony.”
Bennett’s condition has progressed since he was diagnosed, but the story’s writer John Colapinto added the singer has “been spared the disorientation that can prompt patients to wander from home, as well as the episodes of terror, rage or depression.”
Bennett said he first became concerned about his health after he struggled to remember the names of people in 2015. “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do,” said his doctor Gayatri Devi. “He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”
“Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s,” said Bennett on Twitter shortly after the news was shared. “Thank you to Susan and my family for their support, and @AARP The Magazine for telling my story.”
Bennett has received 36 Grammy nominations and 18 wins, his latest victory coming with 2016’sTony Bennett Celebrates 90. His most recent album was 2018’s Diana Krall collaboration Love Is Here to Stay. Bennett last performed in public on March 11, 2020, at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in New Jersey.
It was also revealed that he recorded another duet album with Lady Gaga during his battle. The writer of the AARP profile described seeing documentary footage of Tony’s recording sessions with Lady, noting that the singer appeared “considerably more muted” in the studio, describing Gaga as a nurturing partner between takes.
“‘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 article reads. “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.”
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. Our hearts go out to Tony and his loved ones.